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Quantification of Behavior

Organized by Donald Pfaff and Alan Leshner

June 11-13, 2010
Washington, DC

Meeting Overview:
This interdisciplinary colloquium brought together a diverse group of researchers with the following objectives: to illustrate the current state of behavioral neuroscience, a state in which precision of data is high and methods of quantitative analyses, sophisticated; to give examples of the most interesting mathematical analyses currently in use; and to reveal the startling successes of quantitative approaches in analyzing human economic behavior.  The talks reveal the breathtaking scope of advances in the behavioral sciences during recent years. The program included the most detailed calculations applied to the simplest behaviors, moving on to more complex behaviors and those of greatest medical importance, and concluding with the highest level of human cognitive behavior amenable to quantitative, mathematical approaches. This meeting strived to verify and extend what physicist Eugene Wigner called “the unnatural success of mathematics in describing the natural world."

 Video Available   

 Addiction: Conflicts Between Brain Circuits
Nora Volkow

Donald Pfaff and Alan Leshner
 Introductions and Logic of the colloquium

Session I: Analyses of the simplest behaviors measured under laboratory conditions

How good is good enough?  Tuning synaptic and intrinsic parameters in neuronal circuits
Eve Marder, Brandeis University

 Macro information from micro analyses
Peter Killeen, Arizona State University

Circadian biology
Vivek Kumar, University of Texas Southwestern

 Balancing simplicity and complexity analyses of neural and behavioral data
Greg Stephens, Princeton University

Session II: More complex behaviors, studied under natural conditions

Quantification of developmental song learning: From the sub-syllabic scale to cultural evolution
Ofer Tchernichovski, City College of New York

 Quantification of movement
Ilan Golani, Tel Aviv University

 Visual perception
Dale Purves, Duke University

Kinesiology, the analysis of motion
Peter Cavanagh, University of Washington

Session III: Medical phenomena susceptible to quantitative approaches

 Computational properties of circuits signaling injury: relationship to pain behavior
Lorne Mendell, SUNY Stony Brook

Regulation of sleep in humans
Charles Czeisler, Harvard University

Impact of sleep on the cross-talk between the brain and the periphery
Eve van Cauter, University of Chicago

Session IV: Mathematical approaches and engineering principles

 Mathematics in the description of an elementary function of the vertebrate brain: Generalized arousal
Donald Pfaff, The Rockefeller University

 Control engineering for robust responses in uncertain environments
John Doyle, California Institute of Technology

 Population models of thalamocortical dynamics
Jonathan Victor, Cornell University

 Structural equation modeling
Kenneth Bollen, University of North Carolina

Session V: Complex economic decisions by humans

 The math of behavioral economics
Paul Glimcher, New York University

 The psychology of behavioral economics
Dan Ariely, Duke University


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