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Can We Get There From Here?

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Thursday, April 21, 2022
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Henry Greenside, Ph.D.
Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience

The last several decades have been a golden era of many extraordinary
experimental and theoretical discoveries in neuroscience and we can expect
even more and greater discoveries in the decades ahead. Yet despite these
many advances, progress in understanding the overall logic of nervous
systems and especially how they produce diverse, precise, and flexible
behaviors is still substantially lacking. I discuss from a mainly physics
point of view what are some of the difficulties of understanding how nervous
systems produce behavior, especially the extremely difficult problem of
identifying a physical state that is experimentally measurable and
theoretically manageable. This discussion suggests that, just as there are
hard limits to what physicists can predict about many physical systems due
to the nonlinear dynamics of chaos and what computer scientists can predict
about what results a computer will produce from a given program, there are
limits that will prevent precise behaviors from being predicted or explained
from the necessarily incompletely known physical properties of an animal's
nervous system. The future of theoretical neuroscience will not involve
precise predictions about behavior but more the calculation of approximate
probabilities of different behaviors that are consistent with the hard
limits related to measuring and analyzing nervous systems as physical

Contact: Lukasz Kusmierz