Feb 11 – 14, 2020
Europe/Stockholm timezone

Strong and weak principles for neural dimension reduction (this talk will be streamed)

Feb 14, 2020, 9:30 AM
122:026 (Nordita)



Roslagstullsbacken 17, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden


Mark Humphries


Large-scale, single neuron resolution recordings are inherently high-dimensional, with as many dimensions as neurons. To make sense of them, for many the answer is: reduce the number of dimensions. Here I argue we can distinguish weak and strong principles of neural dimension reduction. The weak principle is that dimension reduction is a convenient tool for making sense of complex neural data. The strong principle is that dimension reduction moves us closer to how neural circuits actually operate and compute. Elucidating these principles is crucial, for which we subscribe to provides radically different interpretations of the same dimension reduction techniques applied to the same data. In this talk, I outline the experimental evidence for each principle; but argue that most well-described neural activity phenomena provide no evidence either way. I also illustrate how we could make either the weak or strong principles appear to be true based on innocuous looking analysis decisions. These insights suggest arguments over low and high-dimensional neural activity need better constraints from both experiment and theory.

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