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Reading Group on Principles of Neural Design - Chapters 1-3

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Tomas Van Pottelbergh.

Peter Sterling and I set out to establish Principles of Neural Design that will help neuroscientists convert mountains of data into an understanding of how brains generate behaviour. Three attachment, the Introduction, 10 Principles and Summary and Conclusions “stolen” from our book, will help you decide if this Discussion group is for you. As laid out in the Introduction, our approach is to relate structure and mechanism to purpose. By considering a range of neural systems we demonstrate how 10 Principles of Neural Design increase the efficiency with brains use space, materials and energy to process meaningful information. Reading the Summary and Conclusions, you will see that these principles operate at all levels of organization, from molecules to brain anatomy, in brains of all sizes.

We wrote our book for a wide scientific audience. For neuroscientists of most persuasions we minimised the number of equations. For physicists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers we minimized the number of names and invoked basic constraints and measures of performance. I will be interested to learn from our discussions how well we appealed to you, and how we could do better.

But what do you want to gain from discussing our book with me? That is largely up to you. To start the ball rolling I have devised a format for the first session. This is a prototype. Like designers we can adapt as we proceed, by tweaking and by restructuring.

Plan for Session 1 —————————— Prepare by reading Chapters 1 to 3; What Engineers Know, Why an Animal Needs a Brain? Why a Bigger Brain? (55 small pages)

On the day, I introduce the material for 15’ by summarising our line of argument, and noting the points that struck me as particular interesting or insightful. Then you discuss with me, first these three chapters, then for the last five minutes the format of our next session. Our discussions should be as frank and fearless as the heated discussions that shaped the book.

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