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Jason Fleischer
Works at The Neurosciences Institute
Attended Victoria University of Manchester
Lives in San Diego, California
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Jason Fleischer

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This afternoons headline (for me) at COSYNE: Ulanovsky showed us that fruit bats (being rodents) have the same kinds of things going on in their brains when they navigate that rats (so well studied) do.  It's fascinating is what happens to hippocampal place and grid cells and head direction cells in 3D, and what it means that the theta oscillation in bats is intermittent at best.  
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I'm not knocking it, +Jason Fleischer. I am a huge believer in interdisciplinary approaches, and it is inevitable that someone who is an expert in one area will have gaps in another. A team approach helps cover all bases. People who stay entirely within a strictly limited discipline still fall prey to knowledge gaps, they just don't realize it :)
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This morning at the COSYNE meeting:  Mrsic-Flogel showed us that the inputs to mouse L2/3 V1 neurons pretty much determine their receptive fields, and that the brain is like the economy: the top 10% of synapses explain 70%+ of the activity.  Britto and Gerstner showed us that every kind of learning rule that will generate simple cell RFs can really be reduced to non-linear Hebb; even more fun is that it's almost hard to pick a non-linearity that won't give you simple cell RFs.  So now your visual models better try to fit something else other than Gabor's, since just about anything can do it. Schneidman showed us that weak correlations between pairs of neurons still add up, and that once again we can apply the brain is like the economy metaphor: that only the most common firing patterns need be used to fit a good model of neural correlations (ignore the 75% in his case). Gao and Ganguli showed that adding more neurons to your data set doesn't necessarily increase the dimensonality of your data;  that's dictated by the animals task complexity.  Freeman's lab has a neat parallel processing toolkit to do big data analysis on TB neural datasets.  Many many more, that were interesting, but those are the ones that I think are of interest to many.
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Jason Fleischer

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This is exactly the kind of science writing we need more of: 1) it's in the right place to make non-scientists notice; 2) it's thorough and doesn't try to oversimplify, but it does provide metaphors that help a non-expert grasp the idea; 3) it focusses on providing a broad overview of an important field, not hyping some random "advancement" fresh off the news release wire
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Jason Fleischer

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Female?  You have two X chromosomes, one from your mom and one from your dad.  It turns out that in most cells only one of those X chromosomes is active, the other has been turned into a useless lump. And it might be the case that some of your organs are operating on mom's X while others are operating on dad"s.  It's fascinating stuff, and it might have big implications for understanding how genes make proteins to make you.  Oh yeah, and curing cancer, etc..  Although to be honest, if you do any research into basic science it's a good idea to figure out how eventually your work will help cure cancer ;)
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Coincidentally, I was just reading about tetrachromacy in which a modified x chromosome that codes for a 4th light absorbing pigment in retinal cone cells may allow some women (and only women) to see a wider range of colors. Some animals, such as birds, have this as well.
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Jason Fleischer

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Anybody in San Diego know someone with a graduate degree in an area related to Environmental Science (bio/chem/physics/geology) who is interested in a part-time teaching gig? Message me.
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Have him in circles
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Jason Fleischer

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Some things that I liked this afternoon at the COSYNE meeting: Ostojic talked about a new means of looking at stability simulated networks with asynchronous irregular firing.  Most analyses look at homogenous perturbations to firing, which means that they are looking at changes for all neurons in the network.  This new method looks at heterogeneous changes in both neurons and time, opening up some much more interesting possibilities in dynamics.  Gjiorgjieva looked at a model of how changes in neural gain nonlinearities might explain how young (just-born) animals have travelling waves of activity across the brain that disappear as the animal matures. 
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Jason Fleischer

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If you're going to be at the COSYNE meeting (Computational and Systems Neuroscience) in Salt Lake City let's meet up at some point.  Also I will be posting a few thoughts about the presentations as they happen. Stay tuned for the next few days...
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Humor and science education, two great tastes that taste great together.  Hopefully this will lead a bunch of people to google the term synaesthesia and read some of the classics of pop-neurosci by +Oliver Sacks  or  V.S. Ramachandran :)
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You may have been there, or maybe you are right now: a grad student who feels ignored and not properly mentored.  On the plus side, things are looking up for you because apparently there are professional consultants who will pick up the slack that your advisor is not.  However, this is just another symptom of how the incentives in academia are messed up.  We can do better, and maybe part of it is going to be making professors realize that establishing successful academic progeny are key to their long term success.
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I guess, for me, it comes down to the simple question of what is a professor's entire job description and what is his or her role as a PhD supervisor? This article seems to ignore the many and substantial other parts of a professor's job (against which he or she will be evaluated) and extend the requirements of the supervisor role well beyond that which I would consider standard. I'm not claiming to be right in my definition of standard, but if the expectations are as presented in the article, then I'm amazed. 
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Jason Fleischer

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Dear Claire Trageser and colleagues at KPBS,

I listened to your story this AM about delayed vaccine schedules.  And then I read the text version online.

You and/or your editor made several mistakes that I feel are harmful to the public.  The worst being:

1) Giving all sides of an argument equal time/weight, even when one of them is objectively in the wrong.
2) Omitting important information that would help people distinguish the relative credibility of each side.
3) Potentially endangering the public by giving media exposure to ideas that can put our health at risk.

The print version at least had a paragraph stating that Wakefield's article linking vaccines to autism was discredited.  But it said that work was "largely discredited" rather than "fraudulent".  BIG difference. And leaving this out of the radio version is downright negligent.

The article also gave equal weight to the opinion of a random pediatrician (favoring delayed vaccine schedules) and to the opinion of a research immunologist studying vaccines (opposed).  A pediatrician is someone who must be a generalist, has probably read  a few opinion articles and abstracts on this topic, and who's practice is influenced by human factors.  An immunologist is someone who is dedicated to this one topic and is intimately familiar with the data and the facts, not just the summaries and opinions and desires of parents who have read scary articles from a misinformed media.

Finally the article has a narrative structure that makes the vaccine doubters seem more human and those on the side of evidence based medicine seem more robotic. A representative tidbit from the print article: 

"But clearly she’s been listening to her dad, and she makes a point for him. She gets shots, she says, "because we don't want the sickness from the sick people.""

In the radio version the language and your tone of voice are much more dismissive:

"clearly coached by her dad, she makes his point for him. She gets shots, she says ..."

In summary, even in the print version this article is misinformation.  In the radio edit, it is reckless.

Since we all tend to listen to the opinions of people we know over strangers, let me leave you with a few links from your colleagues at NPR's On The Media about the dangers of irresponsible media coverage of vaccination. Please pay particular attention to the argument that the media coverage of these false "controversies" is the real problem.

http://www.onthemedia.org/story/208537-why-myth-vaccines-cause-autism-survives/

http://www.onthemedia.org/story/307721-dangerous-view/

Thank you for reading this.  I hope that it helps increase the value of reporting at KPBS, a station I value and have supported for 10 years.

-Jason Fleischer, Ph.D.
The Neurosciences Institute


(open letter, already published on the KPBS web site)
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Fantastic letter. I should have stopped there instead of reading half a dozen of the responses to the link... I made myself sick with disgust and fury. 
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Have him in circles
8,277 people
Work
Occupation
Science!
Employment
  • The Neurosciences Institute
    Senior Fellow, 2004 - present
  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat
    Visiting Scholar, 2003 - 2004
  • Victoria University of Manchester
    Graduate Teaching Assistant, 1999 - 2003
  • Colorado State University
    Graduate Teaching Assistant, 1997 - 1999
  • Pearle Vision, Grand Junction, Colorado
    Optician, 1990 - 1993
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
San Diego, California
Previously
Grand Junction, Colorado - Fort Collins, Colorado - Manchester, England - Freiburg, Germany
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Computational neuroscience, robotics, soccer, photography, and grilled cheese sandwiches
Introduction
I am a Senior Fellow at The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.  I use this profile for communicating about science, both to the general public and to my academic colleagues.  Mostly I post about the mind, the brain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the difference between computation and biology.  

My own research concentrates on how theoretical and mathematical approaches help us understand the real nervous system. I have worked on models of various aspects of episodic memory formation, spatial navigation, working memory, and vision.  I have also built a variety of robots that are controlled by neural models and machine learning algorithms.  By examining the interactions of simulated brain and robot body I hope to better understand the embodied nature of cognition.  In addition, neuroscience understanding can help engineer better robotic systems.
Bragging rights
I make a great grilled cheese sandwhich
Education
  • Victoria University of Manchester
    Computer Science, 1999 - 2003
  • Colorado State University
    Mechanical Engineering, 1993 - 1999
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