December 7, 2020

Don’t miss the Neural Engineering Seminar 12 PM on Friday, Dec 11th! The CNT Student Leadership Council is sponsoring the third of three student-invited seminars this quarter, open to the public and held online. These seminars are aimed at increasing student engagement with speakers with a focus on engineering and neuroscience.


How do organisms learn to do again, on-demand, a behavior that led to a desirable outcome? Dopamine-dependent cortico-striatal plasticity provides a framework for learning behavior’s value, but it is less clear how it enables the brain to re-enter desired behaviors and refine them over time. Reinforcing behavior is achieved by re-entering and refining the neural patterns that produce it. We review studies using brain-machine interfaces that reveal that reinforcing cortical population activity requires cortico-basal ganglia circuits. Then, we propose a formal framework for how reinforcement in cortico-basal ganglia circuits acts on the neural dynamics of cortical populations. We propose two parallel mechanisms: i) fast reinforcement which selects the inputs that permit the re-entrance of the particular cortical population dynamics which naturally produced the desired behavior, and ii) slower reinforcement which leads to refinement of cortical population dynamics and more reliable production of neural trajectories driving skillful behavior on-demand.

There will be a Q&A session before the talk exclusively for students and postdocs focused on career development. This smaller session with the speaker will take place between 11 AM-12 PM PST. The talk, which is open to all, will be from 12 PM – 1 PM PST. Following the talk, Dr. Athalye will be available for 1:1 sessions. Sign up link is below! These are open to everyone, but students and trainees will receive priority.

*Friday, December 11th Neural Engineering Seminar Schedule*

11 AM – 12 PM PST: Career Development Q&A with Dr. Athalye (Students and Postdocs only)

12 PM – 1 PM PST: Talk by Dr. Athalye (Open to all!)

1 PM – 3 PM PST: 1:1 Break-out sessions with Dr. Athalye (Sign up link here first come, first serve)