• How the electrical potential in the brain influences the electrical activity of single neurons. A tryptych of papers from our lab in 2010, spearheaded by Costas, two of them published in The Journal of Neuroscience (joint work with Prof. Gyorgy Buzsaki) and one in Nature Neuroscience (joint work with Prof. Henry Markram) demonstrates the importance of electrical field effects in the brain. Oscillatory spatiotemporal fluctuations of the electric potential across fraction of a millimeter in neural tissue (typically for the brain), induce small ephaptic (purely attributed to field entrainment) potentials along neurons and help to synchronize spiking of nearby cells. That is, unlike the situation in the heart, the sounds of which is of use to the cardiologist but has no causal efficiency for the body itself (it is an epiphenomenon), the local field potential generated by the activity in the brain, feeds back onto neurons themselves. Such coupling poses an alternative route of neural communication and might be critical for cognitive operations.


    • Controlling neurons by thoughts. Nature published in October of 2010 Moran's PhD thesis on using feedback from single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe to control images on a screen using nothing but thought. The paper demonstrates how patients can rapidly, voluntarily, consciously and specifically control single neurons, enhancing the firing rate of some, while simultaneously suppressing the activity of others while leavingthe majority unaffected. See the cool video that Moran directed here.


    • Machine consciousness. IEEE Spectrum published in June of 2008 an entire issue on the The Singularity. This is the hypothetical point in the not-too-distance future when machines will be able to simulate human-level consciousness. This might enable us to become immortal by uploading our memories, thoughts and desires to harddisk and survive the death of our physical bodies - rapture for nerds. In their article in this special issue, Profs. Koch and Giulio Tononi survey what has been learnt about biological consciousness that might be of relevance to machine consciousness. In particular, what would it mean for a machine to be conscious and how could this be tested.


    • Machine vision demo. On Sept. 26, 2007, together with Rob Peters and Laurent Itti from USC, Sharat Chikkerur and Tommy Poggio from MIT, and Jonathan Harel from klab, we tested our system for saliency-based attentional selection, followed either by HMAX for object classification or SIFT for object identification. Unlike the first time, we tested our near real-time system outdoors on the streets of Pasadena, with an aim to recognize objects such as cars, pedestrians, and buildings. Full videos of our results are available here, here, and here. The demonstration was a success.


    • At the 2007 Commencement in early June at Caltech, under a glorious blue sky, members of the laboratory graduated. Carl Gold, Farshad Moradi and Kerstin Preuschoff obtained their PhD in CNS; Will Coulter obtained his MS in EE and Alex Huth obtained his BS in CNS. We wish you good luck in your future careers and stay in touch. Professor Koch brought Winie-the-Pooh along, who recounted this conversation with Piglet.

      Rabbit's clever, said Pooh thoughtfully.
      Yes, said Piglet, Rabbit's clever.
      And he has Brain.
      Yes, said Piglet, Rabbit has Brain.
      There was a long silence.
      I suppose, said Pooh, that's why he never understands anything.


    • Real-time machine vision demo. Together with Rob Peters and Laurent Itti from USC, Sharat Chikkerur and Tommy Poggio from MIT, and Jonathan Harel from klab, we tested - for the first time - an integrated attentional saliency selection, followed by either HMAX object classification or by SIFT object identification. That is, attention selects a portion of the image coming in from a web-cam based on its saliency and passes this window on to the two object recognition algorithms. We got the complete system to work (although not quite at 60 fps yet). Stay tuned for more.


    • Klab Neurotics for Kelrof: Klab participated with its own team (students, faculty and family of klab) in Caltech's 24 hour relay running event KELROF on May, 5th/6th. The 10 runners completed 182x1600m (180 miles and 1660 yds).


    • Given the relentless stream of requests for comments on the relationship between quantum mechanics and the brain, Christof Koch and Klaus Hepp wrote this essay for the March 30. 2006 issue of Nature.
    • The book by Shannon Moffett, The Three-Pound Enigma, has just been published by Algonquin Books. It describes on 40 pages the research done in our laboratory.
    • In February 2006, Caltech launched a brain study program with a $8.9 Million gift from Eli Broad to fund six Broad Fellows in Brain Circuitry. These 6 Fellows and their laboratories will be housed in the basement of Beckman Behavioral Biology. Christof Koch is the director of the program.




    • In November 2005 we moved from our old lab---in the catacombs of Beckman Institute---to gorgeous new and highly colored facilities on the 2. floor of the Beckman Behavioral Biology building next door. We even have windows (the transparent type, not mundane software)! In a sense, we've returned to our roots, since the lab started out (from 1986 until 1993) two floows below, in the basement of BBB.


    • In the fall of 2005 the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London published a paper, entitled What is the Function of the Claustrum by Francis Crick and Christof Koch. The function of this mysterious neuronal structure, hidden beneath the inner surface of the neocortex, occupied his thoughts in the last months of his life. Indeed, he was dictating corrections to this manuscript on July 28. 2004, the day he died. This is a photograph taken by Kent Schnoeker of the Salk Institute of Francis's table the next day, covered with drafts of the claustrum manuscript and related papers.




    • The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach", the book that Prof. Christof Koch has been working on for three years, was published in March of 2004. Based on the conceptual work done with Francis Crick over the past ten years (he wrote the book's forword), it presents a neuroscientific approach to the problem of how consciousness arises out of the brain.


    • "Extreme Science". A cover story by Margaret Wertheim in the November 2003 issue of LA Weekly.
    • Over the past 12 years, we organized the annual, three week long summer workshop on Neuromorphic Engineering in Telluride, Colorado. The next one will take place in July of 2008. For active researchers interested in applying, check out this site. To find out more about this emerging area of engineering, read this newsletter.

    Last modified: 2013-07-01 13:13:55


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