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Posner Lecture
Using the Emergent Dynamics of Attractor Networks for Computation
John J. Hopfield

Wed Dec 10 11:00 AM -- 11:50 AM (PST) @ Level 2, room 210

In higher animals such as mammals, complex collective behaviors emerge from the microscopic properties of large structured ensembles of neurons. I will describe a model example of emergent computational dynamics, based on old-brain cortical properties. This collective (or emergent) description is derivable from the dynamical activity of neurons but has a completely different mathematical structure from the underlying neural network dynamics. The utility of understanding collective dynamics will first be illustrated by showing how it generates a natural solution to the ‘time-warp’ problem that occurs in recognizing time-varying stimulus patterns having a substantial variation in cadence (e.g. spoken words). The model of emergent dynamics will be shown to be capable of producing goal-directed motor behavior, object-based attention, and rudimentary thinking.

Author Information

John J. Hopfield (Princeton University)

BA Swarthmore 1954; PhD Cornell (theoretical physics) 1958. Member of technical staff Bell Laboratories 1958-1960 & 1973-1996; Faculty positions at UCBerkeley (physics) 1961-1964, Princeton Univ. (physics) 1964-1980, Caltech (chemistry and biology) 1980-1996, Princeton Univ. (molecular biology) 1997-2008, Institute for Advanced Study (2010-2013), now emeritus at Princeton Neuroscience Institute. Served as Chairman of the Faculty, Caltech; President of the American Physical Society; Executive Officer for Computation and Neural Systems, Caltech. Honors include Buckley Prize in Solid State Physics; APS prize in biophysics; Dirac Medal; Einstein Award; MacArthur Fellow; IEEE Rosenblatt Award; Swartz Prize in Computational Neuroscience. Member, National Academy of Science; American Philosophical Society. Research on the interaction of light with solids 1956-1970; biomolecular physics and kinetic proofreading 1970-1980; neural network dynamics and neurobiology 1980-.

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