Alexandre Pouget. Geneva University
Alexandre Pouget is a theoretical neuroscientist in the department of Basic Neuroscience at the University of Geneva, Switzerland where he heads of the computational cognitive neuroscience laboratory. He received the 2016 Carnegie prize in Mind and Brain Sciences for his work on neural coding and computation. “Uncovering general principles of computation in neural circuits, and more particularly, cortical circuits is a critical step for understanding how the brain performs a wide variety of tasks, including seeing, hearing, representing the external world, making decisions or controlling motor behavior”, he explains. His approach relies on the idea that the brain represents probability distributions and uses them to perform statistical inference, a notion that has revolutionized the field of neural coding and computation. For instance, upon smelling an odor, the brain do not seek to identify the cause of the odor (e.g. banana or orange) given the chemicals in the air, but returns instead a probability distribution over possible causes (e.g. very likely to be a banana, very unlikely to be an orange, and so forth). Using probability distributions allows the brain to perform near optimal computation in the presence of uncertainty, which is critical because most decisions faced by the brain are subject to large uncertainty.