Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series



Download (2.9 MB)




Nervous systems tune themselves to the statistical structure of the stimuli they encounter. This sensitivity to statistics appears in phenomena ranging over many timescales, from the adaptation of vision to a rapid change in light level to the loss of ability to distinguish the sounds of non-native languages. While multiple neural mechanisms contribute to this on-line learning of stimulus distributions, we show that the intrinsic nonlinearities of single neurons provide them with the ability to represent time-varying stimuli optimally. While such sensitivity to stimulus statistics does not require learning, slower timescales of adaptation are consistent with optimal inference of statistical parameters of the changing stimulus ensemble.

Biographical Information

Adrienne Fairhall has a training in statistical physics from the Australian National University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. In her postdoctoral work, she moved into the area of computational neuroscience, working first in the fly visual system with Bill Bialek at NEC and then in the retina, with Michael Berry at Princeton. She has been a faculty member of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington in Seattle since 2004.


Nervous sytem, Neural networks (Neurobiology), Neural circuitry -- Statistical aspects, Neurons -- Physiology


Neurology | Neurosciences

Persistent Identifier


© Copyright the author(s)

This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

The purpose of this statement is to help the public understand how this Item may be used. When there is a (non-standard) License or contract that governs re-use of the associated Item, this statement only summarizes the effects of some of its terms. It is not a License, and should not be used to license your Work. To license your own Work, use a License offered at

Optimality in Neural Adaptation