Ann Kennedy, Ph.D.*
California Institute of Technology
"Computational Insights into the Neural Control of Complex Behavior"
Naturalistic behavior requires the coordination of neural activity across multiple brain areas, on time scales many orders of magnitude beyond those of individual neurons. This neural activity must furthermore be sensitive to internal state and experience, allowing animals to respond to their environment in a flexible and context-specific manner. Recent advances in our ability to manipulate and record neural activity in freely behaving animals have revealed deep-brain structures that play a key role in the control of survival behaviors such as social interactions and predator defense. By analyzing the population activity of neurons in multiple hypothalamic nuclei of freely behaving mice, we uncover neural representations of internal state and behavior. These representations vary both on timescales of days and on the sub-second timescale of the animal’s behavior, and provide insight into the control strategy by which the hypothalamus governs expression of complex behavior. To support these investigations, we also introduce novel machine learning tools for automated tracking and behavior quantification, producing detailed, high-throughput characterizations of animal behavior in a user-unbiased manner.
Ann Kennedy received her Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior from Columbia University in 2014, where she worked with Larry Abbott and collaborators Nate Sawtell and Richard Axel to model learning and cancelation of self-generated sensory input in two cerebellum-like structures: the electrosensory lobe of the mormyrid electric fish, and the Drosophila mushroom body. She then pursued a postdoctoral position as the resident theorist in the lab of David Anderson at Caltech, where she works with lab members in analyzing, interpreting, and modeling the neural dynamics of hypothalamic nuclei that govern innate survival behaviors. She also collaborates with Pietro Perona and Yisong Yue at Caltech to track and model the actions of interacting animals, in an effort to better understand brains by first understanding in more detail the behaviors they are generating.
Host: Garrett Stanley
Tuesday, February 4
11:15 am - 12:15 pm
Emory HSRB E160
Video Conference: Whitaker 3115
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