Stochastic Network Models of Neocortex (a Festschrift for Jack Cowan) (14w5138)


(University of Utah)

(NIDDK, National Institutes of Health)

(University of Pittsburgh)

(University of Vermont)

(Case Western Reserve University)

(York University)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Stochastic Network Models of Neocortex (a Festschrift for Jack Cowan)" workshop from July 13th to July 18th, 2014.

In the 1950s, during development of the first computers, the renowned mathematician John von Neumann posed a challenge: is it possible to build a reliable computing machine out of unreliable individual components?

Jack Cowan, then a precocious student, solved von Neumann's problem in 1961. He and a fellow student, Shmuel Winograd, showed how combining noisy processors redundantly could make a computing device that is reliable despite having failure prone components. This result launched Cowan to a position as Professor and Chairman of the Committee on Mathematical Biology at The University of Chicago in 1967. For the next 45 years and counting, Cowan has worked tirelessly to apply ideas from statistical physics, dynamical systems and mathematical modeling to illuminate the inner workings of the human brain. His contributions include a mathematical theory for geometric visual hallucinations, a theory for the propagation of avalanche-like activity through the cortex, and a unified statistical description of the behaviour of the mammalian brain.

The BIRS workshop on stochastic network models of neocortex will celebrate the past and present contributions of Cowan and his many students and protegés, and explore new directions in the development of brain theories incorporating the intrinsically unreliable behaviour of individual nerve cells as part of a reliably functioning nervous system.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).