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Event Detail (Archived)

Understanding the Brain's Model of the External World

  • This event already took place in November 2019
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Loren Frank, Ph.D., professor, department of physiology, Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Speaker bio(s)

The ability to create an accurate, predictive model of the world is one of the most remarkable attributes of the brain. The Frank Lab’s goal is to understand how activity and plasticity in neural circuits underlie both the ability to create this model and to use it to make decisions. In this talk Dr. Frank will focus on neural activity patterns that have the potential to play a central role in model-based decision-making. This work began with the realization that the ability to generate and evaluate representations of hypothetical experience, whether of a counterfactual past, or of a possible future, has profound adaptive value. How and when the brain might express these representations has not been clear, and Dr. Frank will describe work from his laboratory that has identified and characterized these representations as a surprisingly common motif in hippocampal spiking activity. The lab has also found that changes in firing rates in medial prefrontal cortex can be seen immediately before and during the expression of these hippocampal representations, consistent with the possibility that this activity marks the time of engagement and evaluation of mental simulations.

Dr. Loren Frank received his B.A. in Psychology and Cognitive studies from Carleton College, his Ph.D. in Systems Neuroscience and Computation from M.I.T. and did post-doctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. His laboratory uses a combination of techniques to study the neural bases of learning, memory and decision-making. In particular, his work focuses on the hippocampus and related structures, brain areas critical for forming and retrieving memories for the events of daily life. He also works in close collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to develop new technologies to understand how the brain works and how to fix it when it is not working properly. These technologies include flexible polymer electrodes that make it possible to record from large numbers of neurons for months at a time. Dr. Frank has received numerous awards for his scientific discoveries and his mentoring, including fellowships from the Sloan, McKnight and Merck Foundations as well as the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, the University of Indiana Gill Young Investigator Award, the UCSF Faculty Mentoring Award, and the College Mentors for Kids Inspire Award.

Open to
Gaby Maimon
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785

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