CISE Seminar: October 19, 2018, James Tee, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

8 St. Mary’s Street, PHO 211
3:00pm-4:00pm – Refreshments at 2:45pm


James Tee
University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Is Information in the Brain Represented in Continuous or Discrete Form?

Is information in the brain represented in continuous or discrete form? Surprisingly, this fundamental question remains unresolved in the field of neuroscience. To date, theories of the mind/brain have primarily focused on computations, excluding communications. This seemingly trivial exclusion is in fact a major oversight, because, in order for information to be operated on computationally, it must first be transmitted/communicated to a processing site (in the brain). This talk provides a brief overview of a collaborative research with Desmond P. Taylor, where communications theory is introduced into the computation mix by drawing on a very well-established communications systems model based on Shannon’s theorems. This interdisciplinary examination arrives at 3 key requirements and characteristics of information communications in the brain, which must be met in order for computations to take place: namely, information must be transmitted reliably, retrievable repeatedly, in the presence of noise. These requirements, in conjunction with Shannon’s communications theorems, strongly imply that it is not feasible for information to be represented in continuous form – it must be in discrete form. This discrete hypothesis is a significant advance in understanding the brain, implying that computational modelling must be tightly integrated with communications aspects, instead of ignoring them. Results of a computer simulation and two experimental (behavioral) studies will be presented briefly, along with preliminary findings of an electrophysiological study on Purkinje cell neurons. Some potential implications for the future of brain research will also be outlined.

James Tee completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2001 at the University of Canterbury, where he worked on Turbo Codes under the supervision of Desmond P. Taylor. Subsequently, he held various industry and policy positions at Vodafone Group, the World Economic Forum, New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, and the United Nations. To facilitate his career transitions, he pursued numerous supplementary trainings, including an MBA at the Henley Business School and an MPhil in Economics (Environmental) at the University of Waikato. In 2012, he began his transition into scientific research at New York University (NYU), during which he completed an MA in Psychology (Cognition & Perception) and a PhD in Experimental Psychology (Neuroeconomics). Most recently, he was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYU’s Department of Psychology, and a Research Scientist (Cognitive Neuroscience) at Quantized Mind LLC. In September 2017, James began his venture into Mind-Body and Energy Medicine, where he is currently pursuing a 3-year MS in Acupuncture clinical training to be an Eastern medicine physician, at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City. Since November 2017, he is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Canterbury. His current research interest in neuroscience focuses on reverse engineering the communications codebook (i.e. signal constellation) of the Purkinje cell neuron. James is also working on Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches inspired by insights drawn from psychology (cognition, perception, decision-making) and neuroscience.

Faculty Host: Vivek Goyal
Student Host: Nan Zhou