Professor Lazar & Team Lead the 2019 Annual Fruit Fly Brain Hackathon and the Columbia Workshop on Brain Circuits, Memory and Computation

By: Eliese Lissner

The 4th Fruit Fly Brain Hackathon, organized in conjunction with the Columbia Workshop on Brain Circuits, Memory and Computation was held on March 21-22, 2019.

The Hackathon was organized by a team of Electrical Engineering students and researchers of the Bionet Group led by Electrical Engineering Professor, Aurel A. Lazar. The team included: Tingkai Liu, Mehmet Kerem Turkcan, Chung-Heng Yeh and Yiyin Zhou.

The Hackathon brought together researchers interested in developing executable models of the fruit fly brain. This year’s hackathon, focused on the FlyBrainLab (FBL), a newly developed interactive computing platform for studying the function of executable circuits constructed from fly brain data. The hackathon attracts three main groups of participants: neurobiologists, modelers and software engineers.

Participants at the Fruit Fly Brain Hackathon (Photo credit: Mehmet K. Turkcan)

Participants at the Fruit Fly Brain Hackathon (Photo credit: Mehmet K. Turkcan)

"We were very excited to see a growing number of both fly brain researchers and developers new to the field who participated in the Fruit Fly Brain Hackathon. We hope that the tools we have been developing will inspire more people to join and contribute to the fly community and to help uncover how the fruit fly brain functions," said Zhou.

At the conclusion of the Hackathon, the 5th Columbia Workshop on Brain Circuits, Memory and Computation kicked off on March 21-22, 2019 with an auditorium full of researchers from around the world interested in developing executable models of neural computation/processing of the brain of model organisms.

Participants at the Columbia Workshop on Brain Circuits, Memory and Computation (Photo credit: Yiyin Zhou)

Participants at the Columbia Workshop on Brain Circuits, Memory and Computation (Photo credit: Yiyin Zhou)

Led by Organizer and Program Chair, Professor Aurel A. Lazar, the workshop topics ranged from the inner workings of the fruit fly brain, the impact of big data on neuroscience, neural circuits and behavior, olfactory coding and odor signal processing in mice, to determining function from the structure of neural circuits.

"With some 200 registered participants, the workshop led to many stimulating and exciting discussions over the course of two days, during the question/answer periods, and session breaks. It showed that the community studying model organisms, including Drosophila and mice, is more vibrant than ever," Lazar said.

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Workshops included:

  • Circuits that Encode and Predict Alcohol Associated Preference Karla Kaun, Department of Neuroscience, Brown University. 
  • Thermosensing in the Fly: from Genes to Cells to Behavior Paul A. Garrity, Department of Biology, Brandeis University. 
  • Olfactory Evolution in Drosophilids: Receptors, Neurons and Behaviours Richard Benton, Center for Integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne. 
  • Better Connectome Reconstruction from Large Electron and Light Microscopy Volumes of the Drosophila Brain Stephan Saalfeld, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA. 
  • Data-Driven Modeling of the Cortex Based on a Systematic Experimental Platform Anton Arkhipov, Allen Institute of Brain Science. 
  • Using Machine Vision and Learning to Discover How the Brain Generates Behavior Kristin Branson, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA. 
  • The Neural Circuit Basis of Behavioral Individuality Benjamin L. de Bivort, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. 
  • Neural Circuits Underlying Sex-Specific Behaviours Stephen F. Goodwin, Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University of Oxford. 
  • Towards a Brain Architecture for Visual Behavior Selection Gwyneth Card, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA. 
  • Decoding and Demixing Smells Venkatesh N. Murthy, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University. 
  • Neural Circuits for Odor Coding in Piriform Cortex Kevin M. Franks, Department of Neurobiology, Duke University. 
  • Building the Functional Map of the Fruit Fly Brain Aurel A. Lazar, Columbia University, New York, NY. 
  • Connecting the Structure and Function of Neural Circuits Srinivas C. Turaga, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA. 
  • Microcircuitry of the Cortex: Connectivity, Strength, and Short-Term Plasticity Tim Jarsky, Allen Institute of Brain Science. 
  • Completing the Fly Model? Louis Scheffer, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA. 


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