Friday, February 25, 2011


I'm at a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference is called Computational and Systems Neuroscience (COSYNE).

What have I learned so far?

That there are many MANY monkeys and mice out there with electrical probes in their brains. The majority of talks so far talk about measurements of neural activity in various regions of the brain, and the subsequent data analysis that tries to make sense of it all in light of the stimulus that caused the activity in the first place.

The first talk was amazing! E.J. Chichilnisky described a project in which they put a piece of a retina on an electrical array (that picks up electrical activity), and shone various configurations of light on the retina. Correlating the input image with the output electrical activity, he was able to isolate the activities of individual cone photoreceptors, as well as how the cones pool their activity for individual retinal ganglion cells - the long, thin neurons that are bundled to form the optic nerve. Basically, elucidating the wiring diagram of the retina, and what image processing gets done in the back of your eyeball. Cool.

I also learned that the visitors' centre of the Mormon Temple (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) is open from 9am to 9pm. The "sisters" that I spoke to were very friendly. I'm really curious to check it out, and find out what makes these people tick. I think I'll spend an hour or so tomorrow looking around and asking questions.

One more thing. I got a kick out of Chichilnisky's talk when he said that his "focus was on the retina".

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