Recent advances in neuroscience provide theoretical neuroscientists with a vast wealth of new data and open questions related to information theory, high-dimensional geometry of representation and computation, and dynamics in the brain. The groups of Ila Fiete, Ngoc Mai Tran and Thibaud Taillefumier study these questions from analytical and numerical perspectives. Fiete and Tran have recently studied the learning capacity of neural networks (see “A binary Hopfield network with 1/\log(n) information rate and applications to grid cell decoding“, “ Robust exponential memory in Hopfield networks“, and “ Associative content-addressable networks with exponentially many robust stable states“).
High throughput DNA sequencing technology has greatly increased the speed and reduced the cost of genome sequencing. The process is divided into to two steps: generating a library of short reads and reassembling those reads into the original genome. Eliza O’Reilly, François Baccelli, Gustavo de Veciana, and Haris Vikalo have worked on modeling this process using stochastic geometry and queueing theory in order to optimize the output of correct reads and the probability of successful reassembly (see End-to-End Optimization of High Throughput DNA Sequencing).
Neural systems propagate information via neuronal networks that transform sensory input into distributed spiking patterns, and dynamically process these patterns to generate behaviorally relevant responses. The presence of noise at every stage of neural processing imposes serious limitation on the coding strategies of these networks. In particular, coding information via spike timings, which presumably achieves the highest information transmission rate, requires neural assemblies to exhibit high level of synchrony. Thibaud Taillefumier and collaborators are interested in understanding how synchronous activity emerges in modeled populations of spiking neurons, focusing on the interplay between driving inputs and network structure. Their approach relies on methods from Markov chain, point processes, and diffusion processes theories, in combination with exact event-driven simulation techniques. The ultimate goal is two-fold: 1) to identify the input/structure relations that optimize information transmission capabilities and 2) to characterize the “physical signature’’ of such putative optimal tunings in recorded spiking activity.