Concept Neurons Seminar

The Cortex Club is pleased to announce a seminar with Prof. Christof Koch this Friday, 5 November at 14:00 in the Sherrington Library to which you are all welcome. Christof is the author of a large variety of seminal publications ranging from the biophysics of individual neurons up to the neurobiology of consciousness, the latter of which he explored in close collaboration with Francis Crick. The details of the event are as follows:

Cortex Club event: 14:00, Friday 5th November, Sherrington Library, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics

Speaker: Prof. Christof Koch (CalTech) 

Title: "Concepts Neurons in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe - From Grandmother to Jennifer Aniston" 

Abstract: "Dedicated neurons that fire in response to very particular specific concepts, such as to a picture of grandma, have played a prominent role in theories that link brain mechanisms to conscious visual perception. The best known include the Bug Detector neurons of Lettvin, Maturana, McCulloch & Pitts (1959) and the Cardinal cells of Barlow (1972). Gross first described face-cells in IT cortex of monkeys (Gross, Bender & Rocha-Miranda 1971). In more recent years, a combination of patches of face cells in the monkey (Tsao et al. 2008) together with face-selective regions in the Fusiform Face Area in humans by Kanwisher established the existence of neuronal mechanisms specific to faces.    In the last decade, my own group (including Rodrigo Quian Quiroga), in collaboration with the neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried at UCLA,characterized single neurons in the medial temporal lobe of patients that fire in a remarkably selective manner to different images, text orspoken names of famous or familiar individuals and objects. These data supports a sparse, abstract, invariant and modality-independent representation in MTL, suggesting that the identity of familiar individuals or objects is encoded by a sparse and abstract representation. Ongoing experiments demonstrate that subjects can voluntarily, rapidly, reliably and specifically control the firing activity of these neurons in their own brain. I shall also describe a learning rule that demonstrates how such cells can arise in an unsupervised manner."

Please also note that Prof. Koch will give a public lecture (Charles Simonyi lecture) entitled "Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist" in the Oxford Playhouse that same day at 5pm.

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