2018 Course Description

Neurophysics of Sensory Navigation

Santa Barbara Advanced School of Quantitative Biology
Summer Research Course @ KITP, UCSB
July 30 - August 24, 2018

Online application coming soon, application deadline February 25, 2018

Course fee $2000. Financial aid is available.


Course Directors: 

Matthieu Louis (UCSB) and Julie Simpson (UCSB)

Course Instructors (partial list):

Bill Kristan, Jr. (UCSD), Matthieu Louis (UCSB), Venkatesh Murthy (Harvard), Pavan Ramdya (EPFL), Julie Simpson (UCSB), and Claire Wyart (ICM Institute)


Course subject

Physics has become omnipresent in systems neuroscience: it plays a critical role in providing tools to record electrical activity of single neurons, monitor neural activity through multi-photon imaging, and model dynamical behavior of nonlinear systems of interconnected neurons. This KITP summer course aims to equip students with the conceptual and technical framework physics and quantitative biology offers to study the integrated function of neural circuits.

Experiments in systems neuroscience require a broad range of interdisciplinary techniques, necessitating collaboration between scientists with complimentary areas of expertise. Course participants will work in teams that include both theorists and experimentalists, building common vocabulary and learning the physics and neurobiology that will help them tackle challenging systems neuroscience questions: how do noisy sensors reliably capture multisensory sensory information? How is the integration of sensory signals transformed into decision making? How are behaviors such as locomotion planned and controlled by the motor system?

Students will attend morning research seminars with senior participants in the closely linked KITP program Neural computations for sensory navigation: mechanisms, models, and biomimetic applications. Afternoon research sessions will begin with a one-week boot camp on confocal and two-photon microscopy, rearing of small model organisms, and data analysis in Matlab and/or Python. The rest of the course will center around hands-on research projects covering two themes: (1) mapping and functional characterization of neural circuits and (2) quantitative description and sensory manipulations of elementary behaviors. Working under the guidance of instructors and teaching assistants, students will be encouraged to develop and pursue their own questions.