Breaking into your brain

Thursday 14th March 2013 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00

Dr Aldo Faisal, Lecturer in Neurotechnology

Applying computing, physics and engineering methodology to experiments with our brains to understand how they work from first principles has led to the invention of a number of low cost machines.

In our research we apply quantitative and computational methods from computing, physics, and engineering to describe and study brains from first principles. We are especially interested in how the brain copes with uncertainty and noise (Faisal et al., 2008, Nature Rev Neurosci). These two factors have profound implications for information processing and are bound to have shaped the design of the nervous system and the way it controls and learns (movement) behavior.

Dr Faisal’s team has created a machine to read the movements of the eyes for less than £30 (NHS machines cost £20,000) from off-the-shelf items. This low cost equipment will enable paralysed people to control other machines to write, play on a screen and control motorised vehicles.

This year the Faisal Lab was awarded a prestigious Human Frontiers in Science Program Grant (1.15 Million USD, 2% success chance).  In close collaboration with Michael H. Dickinson's Lab at the University of Washington (Seattle) and Carlos Ribeiro's Lab at the Champaliamaud Neuroscience Program (Lisbon) it will work on Value-based decision making in Drosophila foraging: genes, computations and behaviour.

The aim is to understand from the level of genes and neurons the neural computations involved in neuroeconomic decision making in an evolutionary fundamental behaviour: foraging in the genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster (the famous fruit fly).

Dr Aldo Faisal
Dr Faisal is a Lecturer in Neurotechnology jointly at the Dept. of Bioengineering and the Dept. of Computing at Imperial College London. He has set up the Faisal Lab to combine cross-disciplinary computational and experimental approaches to investigate how the brain and its neural circuits make decisions, learns and controls movements. The neuroscientific findings enable the targeted development of novel technology for clinical and research applications (Neurotechnology).

Aldo read Computer Science and Physics in Germany, where he wrote his Diplomarbeit (MSc thesis) in non-linear dynamical systems (with Helge Ritter). He moved on to study Biology at Cambridge University (Emmanuel College) and wrote his M.Phil. thesis on the electrophysiological and behavioural study of a complex behaviour in freely moving insects in Malcolm Burrow's group (with Tom Matheson).

For his PhD he joined Simon Laughlin's group at the Zoology Department in Cambridge investigating the reliability and variability of neurons and axons using biophysics and stochastic simulations.

He was elected a Junior Research Fellow at Cambridge University (Wolfson College) and joined the Computational & Biological Learning Group (Engineering Department) to work with Daniel Wolpert on human sensorimotor control.

Between and after his studies he gained experience in strategic mangement consulting with McKinsey & Co. (BTO) and as a "quant" with the investment bank Credit Suisse.

Aldo Faisal has now setup the Faisal Lab at Imperial College to pursue a research program that aims at understanding the brain with principles from engineering which often immediately translates into direct technological applications.

Optionally followed by supper (this can be booked on the event booking form).
After the lecture a Friends' Table has been reserved at a local restaurant to entertain the speaker and for any of the audience who would like to join us to continue the evening's discussion. A two-course fixed price supper is served including wine, coffee and service charge.
Or if you have already booked for the event and now want to join us for supper Book Supper now

Venue: Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Lecture Theatre 1