April 2018 - Waterloo Brain DayExport this event to calendar

Friday, April 6, 2018 — 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM EDT

The 12th Annual Waterloo Brain Day

side profile of a brain with people standing on top of itThe brain is a horrendously complex and poorly understood system that poses both an immense challenge - and possibly rich rewards - to neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, and computer scientists. To celebrate Waterloo's Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, which integrates these approaches to the brain, and to highlight the already established Cognitive Science Program, we have invited four internationally renowned speakers to present generally accessible lectures from each of these perspectives.

This is a free event, and we have a marvellous line up of speakers this year that will cover the full gamut from philosophy of mind, to human decision making, to computational models and tools for neuroscience.  The first talk will begin at 9:00 a.m. (with coffee available before).  The venue will be the main lecture hall on the main floor of EV3 on the University of Waterloo campus.

The order may change so check back for updates as the schedule becomes finalized.


8:30     Refreshments

9:00     Welcome

9:15     Speaker

Brian Knutson

  • Title: Neural prediction of risky choice: From rats to risk markets
  • Affiliation: Stanford University
  • Abstract:Due in part to advances in neuroimaging techniques, investigators can now predict risky choices in individual humans on a trial-to-trial basis. I’ll discuss two new directions of this work, both “down” to apply neuroscience tools to causally manipulate relevant circuits in animal models, and “up” to explore whether neural activity in groups of individuals can forecast the movement of option prices at the market level. Together, relevant findings may help link levels of analysis to inform a coalescing “deep science” of risky choice.

10:15     Speaker

Carrie Figdor

  • Title: Minds Without Brains
  • Affiliation: University of Iowa
  • Abstract: Sci-fi speculation about brainless creatures with minds is so yesterday. New biological research appears to show that actual brainless species – such as plants and bacteria – can make decisions, communicate linguistically, or anticipate or expect rewards (among other examples). Such cases should be taken seriously as challenges to traditional views of the mind-brain relation. I’ll review some of the evidence for these research claims and argue that they reveal a fundamental transition away from anthropocentrism in our theorizing about the mind.

12:00-1:30     Lunch

1:30     Speaker

Olaf Sporns

  • Title: Computational Approaches to Mapping and Modeling Brain Networks
  • Affiliation: Indiana University Bloomington
  • Abstract: Modern neuroscience is in the middle of a transformation, driven by the development of novel high-resolution brain mapping and recording technologies that deliver increasingly large and detailed “big neuroscience data”. Network science has emerged as one of the principal approaches to model and analyze neural systems, from individual neurons to circuits and systems spanning the whole brain. A core theme of network neuroscience is the comprehensive mapping of anatomical and functional brain connectivity, also called connectomics. In this presentation I will review current themes and future directions of network neuroscience, including comparative studies of brain networks across different animal species, investigation of prominent network attributes in human brains, and use of computational models to map information flow and communication dynamics. I will argue that network neuroscience represents a promising theoretical framework for understanding the complex structure, operations and functioning of nervous systems.

3:00    Speaker

    Adrienne Fairhall

    • Title: The Computing Power of Wetware
    • Affiliation: University of Washington
    • Abstract: Our world is becoming increasingly influenced by machine intelligence, as artificial neural networks, trained to carry out sophisticated tasks, become part of our daily lives. Powerful as they are, our brains and the nervous systems of even simple organisms perform at levels that are— for now-- beyond the reach of these networks, in terms of specific capabilities, rapid learning, the ability to adapt and the energy efficiency with which they run. What is it about “wetware” that endows it with its special properties? Evolution has equipped nervous systems with an exquisite array of complex interacting parts; Adrienne Fairhall will discuss some of the physics and biology that may underlie the remarkable performance of living computers. 

    4:15     Reception (EV3 Atrium)

    Past brain day lecturers include: William Seager, Marisa Carrasco, Konrad Kording, James DiCarlo, Daniel Dennett, Daniel Schacter, Paul Glimcher, David van Essen, Patricia Churchland, William Bechtel, Geoff Hinton, Jack Gallant, Ned Block, Carl Craver, Terry Sejnowski, Keith Holyoak, Peter Strick, Jay McLelland, Tony Movshon, Jonathan Cohen, Larry Barsalou, Sebastien Seung, Mel Goodale, John Hopfield, Jesse Prinz, David Sheinberg, Gyorgy Buzsaki, Ian Gold, Michael Tarr, and Michael Hasselmo.

    Sponsored by:
    University of Waterloo Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience (CTN), Cognitive Science Program, and Faculty of Arts.

     Past Waterloo Brain Days

    EV3 - Environment 3
    Room 1408
    200 University Avenue West
    Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
    Event tags 

    Waterloo researchers among top in Canada

    Chris Eliasmith writing on a whiteboardChris Eliasmith, Director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, received the prestigious John C. Polanyi Award  and is also an inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

    S M T W T F S
    1. 2018 (2)
      1. April (1)
      2. January (1)
    2. 2017 (7)
      1. November (1)
      2. October (1)
      3. September (1)
      4. April (1)
      5. March (2)
      6. February (1)
    3. 2016 (8)
    4. 2015 (9)
    5. 2014 (6)
    6. 2013 (9)
    7. 2012 (4)

    How to Build a Brain

    Chris Eliasmith’s team at the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience has built Spaun, the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain. The related book is now available and for the full article Waterloo Stories.


    This is a collection of coverage of work with Nengo (Neural Engineering Objects) that has appeared in the popular press recently.