The Maps Inside Your Head

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 4:00pm to Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 3:55pm

Event Calendar Category

LIDS Seminar Series

Speaker Name

Vijay Balasubramanian


University of Pennsylvania

Building and Room Number



How do our brains make sense of a complex and unpredictable world? In this talk, I will discuss an information theory approach to the neural topography of information processing in the brain. First I will review the brain's architecture, and how neural circuits map out the sensory and cognitive worlds. Then I will describe how highly complex sensory and cognitive tasks are carried out by the cooperative action of many specialized neurons and circuits, each of which has a simple function. I will illustrate my remarks with one sensory example and one cognitive example. For the sensory example, I will consider the sense of smell ("olfaction"), whereby humans and other animals distinguish vast arrays of odor mixtures using very limited neural resources. For the cognitive example, I will consider the "sense of place", that is, how animals mentally represent their physical location. Both examples demonstrate that brains have evolved neural circuits that exploit sophisticated principles of mathematics and information processing - principles that scientists have only recently discovered.


Vijay Balasubramanian is the Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor in the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also Director of the Computational Neuroscience Initiative. He received B.Sc. degrees in Physics and Computer Science, and an M.Sc. in Computer Science, from MIT. He earned a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Princeton University, and was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows.