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Jan Benda

Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience, 2007

"Function of intrinsic noise in sensory signal processing"

Sense organs translate sensory stimuli into neural signals – neurons fire brief electrical pulses. The timing of these spikes can be quite variable, which on a first glance seems to degrade precise neuronal signal transmission. However, neurons need to process sensory information and this „noise“ can therefore in principle play an important role, since the amount of noise determines the level of synchronization between many neurons. In this way, noise could help to filter out only behaviorally relevant stimulus features.

Goal of the proposed project is to investigate the role of noise in processing signals in sensory systems. Comparative electrophysiological studies on the active and the passive electrosensory system of two species of weakly electric fish are the key for achieving this goal. In addition, observation of the behavior of the fish both in the lab and in their natural habitats will result in valuable data on the statistics of natural stimuli.

The results of this project will contribute to the understanding of neural information processing in general, including the human brain.

Portrait of Jan Benda