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Mathematical Physics Seminar

Vector computations in the fly brain

Larry Abbott – Columbia University Wednesday

Location:  zoom
Date & time: Wednesday, 19 May 2021 at 10:45AM - 11:45AM

Larry Abbott – Columbia University

Wednesday, May 19, 10:45AM

“Vector computations in the fly brain”

Many tasks, especially those associated with movement and navigation, require the manipulation of vectors.  I will describe collaborative work with Gaby Maimon and Cheng Lyu explaining how the Drosophila brain performs vector computations. Specifically, flies compute and represent the direction they are traveling in reference to external cues, such as the sun, correcting for drift.  The vectors needed for this computation are represented, rotated and added as phasors - sinusoidal patterns of activity with amplitudes and phases that match the lengths and angles of the corresponding vectors.  Thus, flies perform the types of vector calculations often assigned in introductory physics classes, but they do this in ways that are not typically taught in such courses.