Skip to main content

Cox Distinguished Lecture: Leslie Valiant

Oct 6
11 a.m.
Lopata Hall, Room 101

Leslie Valiant, T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Harvard University will present "Where Computer Science Meets Neuroscience".

 >> Please register to attend by October 4th.

TITLE: Where Computer Science Meets Neuroscience

For some problems in science there are several plausible theories and it remains to experimenters to resolve among them. There exist other problems for which, in contrast, no known theory is widely accepted as plausible. Currently computational neuroscience is a field full of opportunity that offers several fundamental problems of the latter kind. We shall discuss one of these problems: Over a lifetime the brain performs hundreds of thousands of individual cognitive acts, of a variety of kinds, including the formation of new associations. Each such act depends on past experience, and, in turn, can have long lasting effects on future behavior. It is difficult to reconcile such large scale capabilities, including fast reaction times on new inputs when using knowledge acquired at various earlier times, with the known resource constraints on cortex, such as low connectivity and low average synaptic strength. Here we shall describe an approach to this fundamental problem that attempts to explain these phenomena in terms of concrete algorithms for a model of computation that is faithful to the most basic quantitative resources.


Leslie Valiant was educated at King's College, Cambridge; Imperial College, London; and at Warwick University where he received his Ph.D. in computer science in 1974. He is currently T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1982. Before coming to Harvard he had taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Leeds University, and the University of Edinburgh.

His work has ranged over several areas of theoretical computer science, particularly complexity theory, learning, and parallel computation. He also has interests in computational neuroscience, evolution and artificial intelligence and is the author of two books, Circuits of the Mind, and Probably Approximately Correct.

He received the Nevanlinna Prize at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1986, the Knuth Award in 1997, the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science EATCS Award in 2008, and the 2010 A. M. Turing Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (London) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Organizer: Tammy Haney,