Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory (14w5170)


Toby Berger (University of Virginia)

(York University)

(Case Western Reserve University)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory" workshop from October 26th to October 31st, 2014.

The trillions of individual
cells in the human body need to stay in constant contact to keep the heart pumping,
the muscles moving, and the brain thinking. But cells can't call or text each other -- they need to keep in touch by using chemical or electrical signals.
This week, scientists at the Banff International Research Station
are talking about biological communication -- not just how cells chat, but how information is
processed in the brain, how data is stored in DNA, and how biological systems organize themselves
into networks.

The key to understanding these processes is information theory, the mathematical study of
reliability and efficiency in communication. ``Information theory tells us how fast you can download
a movie to your computer, but it might also tell us how fast biological processes can go,''
says Professor Andrew Eckford, a workshop organizer from York University in Toronto. ``Cells
might be evolving to make their communication faster and more reliable, running up against the
same limits that we see on the internet or in your smartphone.''

Workshop participants will discuss how the same mathematical tools used
to analyze telecommunication systems can be used to analyze biological systems.
Scientists hope that discussions at the workshop
will unlock new ways of understanding the brain, and new insights
into diseases such as cancer. These methods might also be adapted
into advanced
treatments that are optimized for use inside the human body, such as nanorobotic drug delivery.

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).