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How Brains Add Vectors

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar


How Brains Add Vectors

Gaby Maimon, PhD
Associate Professor
Head of Laboratory of Integrative Brain Function
The Rockefeller University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Many cognitive computations rely on the nervous system estimating mathematical vectors, but aside from computer models, how brains represent vectors or perform vector operations remains unknown. In this talk, I will describe how the fly brain performs vector arithmetic, in the context of spatial navigation. The central features of this vector calculator inside the insect brain may generalize to other nervous systems and other cognitive domains beyond navigation, where vector operations are required.
Gaby Maimon, PhD, studies how the Drosophila brain calculates and stores quantitative internal variables–such as distances, angles, time intervals, and event probabilities–to guide behavior. Using advanced genetic, physiological, and behavioral methods, Dr. Maimon and his team identify neurons exhibiting physiological activity that tracks the value of internal variables, then determine how these internally constructed signals impact behavior. Alternatively, the team may start with specific behaviors, during which flies are compelled to calculate internal variables, and then work to describe the circuits, cells, and molecules that mediate those tasks. The lab’s long-term goal is to provide comprehensive descriptions of how higher brain functions are implemented, from molecules to movements.

Contact Information

Lisa Williams

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Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building (PISB), Room 120, located on the northeast corner of 33rd and Chestnut Streets.


  • Everyone