Kenneth Miller


My lab's interests focus on understanding the cerebral cortex. We use theoretical and computational methods to unravel the circuitry of the cerebral cortex, the rules by which this circuitry develops or "self-organizes", and the computational functions of this circuitry. Our guiding hypothesis -- motivated by the stereotypical nature of cortical circuitry across sensory modalities and, with somewhat more variability, across motor and "higher-order" cortical areas as well -- is that there are fundamental computations done by the cortical circuit that are invariant across highly varying input signals. In some way that does not strongly depend on the specific content of the input, cortex extracts invariant structures from its input and learns to represent these structures in an associative, relational manner. We (and many others) believe the atomic element underlying these computations is likely to be found in the computations done by a roughly 1mm-square chunk of the cortical circuit. To understand this element, we have focused on one of the best-studied cortical systems, primary visual cortex, and also have interest in any cortical system in which the data gives us a foothold (such as rodent whisker barrel cortex, studied here at Columbia by Randy Bruno, and monkey area LIP, studied here by Mickey GoldbergJackie Gottlieb and Mike Shadlen).

The function of this element depends both on its mature pattern of circuitry and on the developmental and learning rules by which this circuitry is shaped by the very inputs that it processes. Thus we focus both on understanding how the mature circuitry creates cortical response properties (see lab publications on Models of Neuronal Integration and Circuitry, below) and on how this circuitry is shaped by input activity during development and learning (see lab publications on Models of Neural Development, below).

While I was at UCSF, I also had an experimental component to my lab, focused on the study of the simultaneous activity of many neurons in visual cortex using the "tetrode" method of recording (see lab publications on Experimental Results, below). Experiments applied these methods in cat visual cortex and LGN (the nucleus providing visual input to cortex).