Dispatch from Paris: This week was the annual meeting of the Organization for Computational Neuroscience. This year, it took place at Université Paris Descartes. And so, here we were this week – unraveling the mystery of “cogito ergo sum” (In English: “I think, therefore I am”), or at least displaying our latest attempts at doing so.
It is both stimulating and daunting to be in the alleyways of Picasso, of Benjamin Franklin and of Diderot, as we embark on the journey to discover what biological mechanisms were laid at their foundations, and lay at our own. How can this compare with last month’s presentation at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping annual meeting in Seattle?
Although our current Diderots, Picassos and Franklins met there last month to lend their thoughts – and their critiques – of our ongoing EEG-fMRI work in time-pressured evidence accumulation (i.e., ‘the baseball task’), the ambience of century’s worth of thought on the human condition, does not exist with the same magnitude in the Pacific Northwest as it does in the Latin Quarter.
It is in this environment, this milieu, where I presented our latest work on optimizing the algorithms, by which we decode neural markers of perception. It is a topic that my advisor regards with some skepticism, but slowly, I am building a case for my use of genetic algorithms to inform parameter selection of logistic regression classifiers. The presentation went quite well, and I had good feedback all around.
The visitors to my poster were all interested – some had even made a note to stop by my poster! – and all came away understanding what I had done, how I had done it, and had some insight on how they could use a similar approach to the problems they were working on. I especially made a point of asking each visitor on what he/she was working, so as to direct my results in a way, so that they were more relevant. I believe that this served quite well in keeping their attention amidst the buzz of the hall, and the heat-pocket that had emerged near my poster and many others cramped into such a small space.
So there we were this week, in the hall of the mountain kings, so to speak; and finding corridors in the terrain that they had never dreamed of. Now, it is time for a little vacancies to process this all, and in the meantime, to be thankful for the opportunity to study the mind, the brain and the mechanisms by which we act in our world, in the very streets and along the very corridors, which our giants on whose shoulders we stand, did the same more than three centuries ago.