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Why the brain is the way it is: the efficient-coding hypothesis

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hannah Critchlow.

A special lecture by Professor David McAlpine from the University College London Ear Institute, London.

Research Interests: how the central auditory nervous system brings information together from the two ears to form an “image” of the auditory environment. Specifically, this involves recording the responses of single neurones in the inferior colliculus, the major auditory nucleus in the midbrain, to sounds presented to both ears. As well as examining how neurones in the inferior colliculus can “extract” acoustic signals from a noisy background using binaural cues – a component of the “cocktail part effect” – I have, more recently, been investigating how the complexity of binaural processing increases as the auditory pathway is ascended. As with all sensory systems, the complexity of responses to relevant stimuli increases at progressively “higher” stages in the central nervous system. This often manifests itself as an increase in the complexity of the stimulus features that can be encoded, a phenomenon known as “emergence”. Understanding how encoding of complex auditory features might emerge is the major goal of many contemporary auditory investigations, and knowing how information from lower levels in the auditory pathway is brought together to perform this task will contribute greatly to this goal.

Biosketch: Following my first degree in Physiology at the University of Western Australia, I moved to Oxford, where, for my D. Phil, I studied the development of neuronal responses in the central auditory system following cochlear insult at various post-natal ages. After completing my D. Phil., I spent several years at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham, investigating binaural processing of complex sounds in the central auditory system. Following a couple of years as a lecturer in Sheffield, I took up my current post as a lecturer here at UCL in October 1999.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Seminars series.

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