David J. Heeger

New York University


Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 2013)

Biosketch

David J. Heeger is a Silver Professor and Professor of Psychology, Neural Science, and Data Science at New York University. He received his B.A. in mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science, both from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, a research scientist at the NASA-Ames Research Center, and an Associate Professor at Stanford before coming NYU. He was awarded the David Marr Prize in computer vision in 1987, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in neuroscience in 1994, the Troland Award in psychology from the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, and the Margaret and Herman Sokol Faculty Award in the Sciences from New York University in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. Heeger is Chief Scientific Officer of Anthic, a tech startup that develops neuroscience-based video games to optimize human performance. Heeger is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Epistimic AI, that powers discovery in biomedical R&D by providing professionals in the life sciences with an interactive AI research assistant for exploring, linking, and understanding biomedical knowledge.

Research Interests

Heeger's research spans an interdisciplinary cross-section of engineering, psychology, and neuroscience. He has studied visual perception and visual neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, computer vision, image processing, computer graphics, AI, artificial neural networks, and data science. His current research is focused on understanding the computations performed by neural circuits in the brain. There is considerable evidence that the brain relies on a set of canonical neural computations, repeating them across brain regions and modalities to apply operations of the same form, but we lack a theoretical framework for how such canonical computations can support a wide variety of cognitive processes, brain functions, and neural systems. The field of neuroscience needs a general theory of brain function, like Maxwell?s Equations for the brain. Heeger is developing such a theoretical framework. The theory offers a unified framework for the dynamics of neural activity, and it recapitulates many key neurophysiological and cognitive/perceptual phenomena (including sensory processing and attention in visual cortex, and working memory in prefrontal cortex), measured with a wide range of methodologies (including intracellular recordings of membrane potential fluctuations, firing rates of individual neurons, optogenetic manipulations, local field potentials, neuroimaging, and behavioral performance).

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