The Faculty


How populations of neurons collectively encode information present in their inputs and how they perform computations on these signals


Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, BS, 05/97, Chemical Physics

Oxford University, Oxford, England, UK, DPhil, 11/00, Theoretical Physics

University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, , 2000-2005, Neuroscience

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, , 2006-2012, Neuroscience

BPHYS Student

Vaughn Spurrier

Research Interests

I study how populations of neurons collectively encode information present in their inputs and how they perform computations on these signals. The brain performs several classes of computation including signal comparison, prediction, error correction, and learning. To investigate these phenomena, I work with experimentalists on a variety of systems: predictive coding in the salamander retina, combinatorial coding in visual motion cortex (area MT of the monkey), temporal coding in the zebra finch song system, and contrast invariant coding in cat primary visual cortex (V1). From these studies, several general principles have emerged, which guide my current research: the hypothesis that neurons are optimized to predict their future inputs, that information in neural populations is represented combinatorially, and that coding in sensori-motor systems is highly dynamic and behaviorally dependent. By working closely with experimentalists, we constrain and test these theories of neural population coding with detailed measurements.

Selected Publications

S. E. Palmer, M. J. Berry, II and W. Bialek. (in preparation) Predictive information in the retina.

S. E. Palmer, B. D. Wright, M. H. Kao and A. J. Doupe. (in preparation) Behavioral context modulates coding in a songbird circuit required for vocal plasticity.

L. C. Osborne*, S. E. Palmer*, S. G. Lisberger, and W. Bialek. (2008) The neural basis for combinatorial coding in a cortical population response, J. Neurosci. 28, 13522-13531.
(*These authors contributed equally to this work.)

S. E. Palmer and K. D. Miller. (2007) Effects of inhibitory gain and conductance fluctuations in a simple model for contrast invariant orientation tuning in cat V1. J. Neurophysiol. 98, 63-78.

S. E. Palmer and J. T. Chalke. (2001) Quantum disorder in the two-dimensional pyrochlore Heisenberg antiferromagnet. Phys. Rev. B 64, 94412

S. E. Palmer and J. T. Chalker. (2000) Order induced by dipolar interactions in a geometrically frustrated antiferromagnet. Phys. Rev. B 62, 488.

H. Wang, Y. T. Chough, S. E. Palmer, and H. J. Carmichael. (1997) Normal mode oscillation in the presence of inhomogeneous broadening. Optics Express 1, no. 12.