"Perceiving and Deciding" Brain Function Dynamics Explored at Stony Brook Lecture

William Newsome, PhD to discuss groundbreaking advancements at the 18th Annual Swartz Foundation Mind/Brain Lecture

Released: 26-Mar-2014 11:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Stony Brook University
Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Newswise — STONY BROOK, NY, March 26, 2014 – How does the brain go from perceiving something to deciding what to do about it? The quest to understand brain functions associated with perception and decision making will be addressed Monday, March 31 at 4:30 pm at Stony Brook’s Staller Center at the Swartz Foundation’s Mind/Brain Lecture Series by guest lecturer William Newsome, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine and co-chair of Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Working Group, the recently announced initiative by President Barack Obama to revolutionize the understanding of the brain. Dr. Newsome will discuss his research from three decades of study as well as his involvement in the newly launched BRAIN initiative.

This lecture, “Perceiving and Deciding: From Single Neurons to Popular Dynamics” is intended for a general audience, and is free and open to the public. The Mind/Brain Lecture Series is sponsored by Stony Brook University and its Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, and by the Swartz Foundation, which supports research in theoretical neuroscience.

Dr. Newsome’s laboratory studies sensory and cognitive neuroscience, and has made fundamental contributions to understand neural mechanisms underlying visual perception and simple forms of decision making. He seeks to understand how higher mammals acquire information about the world, how that information is processed within the brain, and how behavioral responses to that information is organized. The long-term goal of Newsome’s research is to understand the neuronal processes that mediate visual perception and visually guided behavior.

In this lecture, Dr. Newsome will discuss the 50-year evolution as systems neuroscientists have been working to understand sophisticated brain functions like perception and decision-making by studying 100 billion (or so) neurons at a time. He compares it to understanding a modern day supercomputer by studying it one transistor at a time. Newsome will talk about the ‘single neuron’ quest, which has been far more successful than expected, as well as the limitations it has created. He will close with his speculation about what the future holds for brain science and discuss his involvement the President’s BRAIN initiative.

The lecture can also be viewed live via podcast. Please call (631) 632-7238 for a disability-related accommodation.

# # #

The Swartz Foundation was established by Dr. Jerome Swartz in 1994 to explore the application of physics, mathematics and engineering principles to neuroscience as a path to better understanding the mind/brain relationship. The Foundation set out to meet this requirement proactively, bringing the necessary intellectual resources to bear on understanding the brain/mind connection by attracting and preparing scientists from these areas to participate in the mainstream of neuroscience research. The Swartz Foundation supports theoretical neuroscience research at 11 centers: Brandeis University, California Institute of Technology, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, University of California at San Francisco, University of California at San Diego and Yale University. In other research support activities, the Swartz Foundation sponsors a wide variety of individual projects using quantitative approaches to understand how the brain works.

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 24,000 students and 2,200 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation and Kiplinger named it the 29th best value in public colleges for in-state students and 20th for out-of-state students. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook University co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. Stony Brook is ranked in the top 1 percent of the world's higher education institutions by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It is one of the top 100 universities in the nation and one of the top 35 public universities as determined by U.S. News & World Report. It was recently ranked one of the 30 best values in public colleges and universities by Kiplinger and is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.