Alex Pouget
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester

Probabilistic inferences in neural circuits: from insects to humans

Wednesday 06th of May 2009 at 12:00pm
508-20 Evans Hall

A wide range of behaviors can be formalized as instances of probabilistic inferences. This includes odor recognition in insects, navigation in rodents, auditory localization in barn owls, decision making in primates and causal reasoning in humans, to name just a few. In all cases, the probabilistic inferences involve products of distributions and marginalization. We will show that, given the type of variability reported in neural responses, products of distributions can be implemented through linear operations over firing rates, while marginalization requires a particular nonlinearity known as quadratic divisive normalization. Both operations are conspicuous in many neural circuits raising the possibility that seemingly unrelated behaviors could in fact rely on very similar neural mechanisms across different species.

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