The 2020 Neural Computation and Engineering Connection (NCEC) was held on January 30-31, 2020. This annual event brings together the UW neuroengineering and computational neuroscience communities to share and discuss new research and facilitate collaborations. The event is sponsored annually by the UW Institute of Neuroengineering (UWIN), the Center for Neurotechonolgy (CNT), and the UW Computational Neuroscience Center.

This year’s connection drew 172 attendees, with a multitude of talks: four by invited keynote lecturers, four from local UWIN faculty, four talks by senior UWIN/Swartz postdoctoral fellows, and eight talks by senior UWIN and Computational Neuroscience graduate and undergraduate students. Alongside these talks, there was a poster session, and an ethics panel. Thank you to all who attended and participated!

Day 1: Thursday, January 30, 2020`

Poster Session

Day 1 of NCEC kicked off with a poster sessions over lunch! UW faculty members and students presented their work on a variety of neural engineering and computational neuroscience topics.


“The Smellicopter: a bio-hybrid odor localizing nano-air vehicle”

Melanie Anderson, Mechanical Engineering graduate student, Daniel Lab

Anderson focuses on the Smellicopter which is, to their knowledge, the first flying biohybrid chemosensing robot, the first odor-localizing robot using feedback only from sensors carried on-board, and the fastest odor localizing robot to date. These results represent a significant step forward in odor localizing robots and a step toward robots that have the speed and sensitivity of biological systems. 


“Go with the FLOW: Spatiotemporal Dynamics in Optical Widefield Calcium Imaging”

Nate Linden, UWIN undergraduate fellow, Bing Brunton Lab

Linden presents his recent work to capture the spatiotemporal dynamics by computing FLOW (flow lines in optical widefield imaging) modes to observe global brain activity at the mesoscale.


“Learning to see again: Perceptual learning for sight restoration technologies”

Rebecca Esquenazi, Psychology graduate student, Fine lab

Esquenazi examines the current state of retinal and cortical visual implants, and whether patients might be able to learn to decode an unnatural on-and-off cell pattern. This is investigated by training normally sighted individuals with visual input that was distorted to produce abnormal conflicting on-and-off cell responses and observing the improvement.


“Tuning for global motion in ventral visual area V4 ”

Anthony Bigelow, Comp Neuro graduate fellow, Pasupathy lab

Bigelow discussed the identification of a global motion signal in ventral visual area V4, a region typically associated with form processing, and how this provides a unique opportunity to study the integration of form and motion signals in the mammalian visual system. 


“Anipose: a full system for robust 3D markerless tracking”

Pierre Karaschuk, Neuroscience graduate student, Tuthill and Bing Brunton labs

Karaschuk introduces Anipose, a comprehensive open-source library for robust, markerless 3D tracking from multiple camera views. Adiopose helps quantify body position and movement which is critical for understanding animal behavior and the neuromechanical systems that underlie it.


“Stimulation rebound in deep brain stimulation for essential tremor.”

Sarah Cooper, Comp Neuro undergraduate fellow, Chizeck lab


“Dimensionality and Dynamics in classifying Recurrent Neural Networks”

Matt Farrell, Applied Math graduate student, Shea-Brown lab

Farrell focuses on how Recurrent Neural Networks learn to increase and reduce the dimensionality of their internal representation in a way that matches the demands of a classification task.


“A Toolbox for Studying Ischemic Stroke in Non-Human Primate Cortex”

Karam Khateeb, Bioengineering graduate student, Yazdan-Shahmorad lab

Khateeb introduces a toolbox to study stroke in non-human primates as a pre-clinical model, which can provide critical insight into the mechanisms of ischemic stroke and advance the development of stimulation-based stroke therapies.”


Keynote lecture: “Modulating neural sequencing to improve recovery after stroke”

Karunesh Ganguly, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Ganguly spoke on the relationship between neural sequencing and oscillatory dynamics in the execution of skilled behaviors in both the intact and injured brain. 


Ethics panel discussion: “Management in scientific collaborations”

Chair: Adrienne Fairhall; Participants: Karunesh Ganguly, Eva Dyer, Eric SheaBrown, Amy Orsborn

NCEC 2020 Ethics panellists: Karunesh Ganguly, Eva Dyer, Eric SheaBrown, Amy Orsborn. Moderated by Adrienne Fairhall

Day 2: Friday, January 30, 2020

Keynote Lecture: “Lifelong adaptive learning, transfer and savings through gating in the prefrontal cortex”

Terry Sejnowski, Salk Institute

Dr. Sejnowski examines the process of storage and switching in the prefrontal cortex, focusing on a recurrent gating model of the prefrontal cortex that grows adaptively. This model exhibits transfer learning and robust memory savings, providing a fundamental framework for how the prefrontal cortex may handle the abundance of schemas necessary to navigate the real world.


“Large-scale brain network dynamics informed by ultrafast functional MRI”

Hesam Jahanian, UW Radiology


“Paradigms for data-driven control”

Nathan Kutz, UW Applied Mathematics

Dr. Kutz investigates how neural pathways from input stimuli to motor-neuron driven behavioral responses function. Comparison of a small, stereotyped connectivity graph and a large, randomly connected network for processing can give insight into the diversity of neurosensory strategies available to organisms. 


“Comparing the effects of frontal and temporal neurostimulation on second language learning”

Kinsey Bice, UWIN Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Bice examines how neurostimulation shapes language learning in adults by comparing how stimulation of different brain regions (frontal vs. temporal areas) affects learning specific aspects of language. Results from an artificial grammar learning study reveal that frontal stimulation enhanced the acquisition of procedural information (akin to grammar) whereas temporal stimulation facilitated learning of explicit information (like vocabulary).


“Simulating the perceptual experience of patients implanted with cortical visual prosthetics”

Ione Fine, UW Psychology

Within a decade, individuals living with incurable blindness are likely to have a broad range of options for sight restoration. Here Dr. Fine describe the idea of ‘virtual patients’ – models that simulate neural responses and perceptual outcomes for a range of sight restoration technologies, and show how this model can predict patient percepts for a cortical prosthetic.


Keynote Lecture: “A Design Principle for Population Neural Codes”

Michael Berry, Princeton University


“From intention to movement: low-power, high performance communication protocol for backscattered-based neural implants”

Laura Arojna, UWIN Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Arojna presents work on developing a custom high-performance protocol and reader for bi-directional communication with neural implants Eventually enable a closed-loop operation, improving neural implants potential for significant impact in medicine.


“Using a fluorescent voltage sensor to measure membrane potential in Drosophila proprioceptive axons”

Lylah Deady, UWIN Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Deady touched on the computation required from different types of proprioceptors which send various information about where one’s body is in space to the central nervous system. These incoming stimuli from primary proprioceptive neurons perform complex computations to enhance or diminish various information, resulting an awareness of body position.


“The Role of Corticospinal Tract Plasticity in Motor Recovery Induced by Targeted Activity Dependent Spinal Stimulation”

Allie Widman, UWIN Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Widman walks through creating a novel therapy termed targeted activity-dependent spinal stimulation (TADSS), where spinal stimulation is delivered when muscle activity is detected. Using spike timing dependent plasticity principles, she tests if muscle activity can be used as a noninvasive surrogate for brain activity promotes the strengthening of spared cortical connections to spinal cord.


“Neural processing and behavioral strategies used by mice to navigate with dynamic odor plumes”

David Gire, UW Psychology

Dr. Gire discusses results from large scale imaging of the early olfactory system that determine the population dynamics that emerge during odor plume encounters. As well as experiments in freely moving mice navigating to odor sources that determine the strategies mice use to accumulate directional information from intermittent odor encounters.


Keynote Lecture: “Comparing high-dimensional neural recordings across time, space, and behavior”

Eva Dyer, Georgia Institute of Technology