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CRM > English > Activities > Conference: Dynamics of Memory: What is the evidence?
Conference: Dynamics of Memory: What is the evidence?







Practical information



Dates:    July 12 and 13, 2012


Thursday, July 12. Auditori. Residència d'Investigadors (location: C. de l'Hospital, 64. Barcelona)

Friday, July 13: Sala Prat de la Riba, Institut d'Estudis Catalans (location: C. del Carme, 47. Barcelona)

Both locations are very close to each other (see map)


List of participants

Group picture

List of participants with their lodging arranged through the CRM





The aim of this conference is to discuss experimental approaches that evaluate and assess theoretical mechanistic explanations for how memories are stored, retrieved and maintained in the brain.

Recent technological and theoretical developments make this is the right time to bring together theoreticians and experimentalists to discuss the dynamics of memory. This meeting should be of interest to systems neuroscientists, both those using experimental as well as theoretical approaches.

The overall scientific goal of the conference is to discuss experimental approaches that would help to evaluate and assess different proposed theoretical frameworks comprising mechanistic explanations for how memories are stored, retrieved and maintained in the brain.
The most firmly established mechanism for memory is based on the idea of attractor dynamics. Classical attractor neural networks store static patterns of neuronal activity in their synaptic connection matrices.
Positive feedback in these networks causes an initial pattern of activity to evolve in time in such a way as to approach the most similar of the stored patterns, which can then sustain itself without the necessity of an external input. This type of dynamics implements a process of categorization of transient inputs, and five of the proposed speakers (Treves, O'Keefe, Moser, Munk and Friedrich) will discuss evidence suggesting that such a categorization process is taking place in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Because categorization can also be achieved by feed-forward networks which do not use attractor dynamics, an interesting topic for discussion will be whether the available evidence directly supports the attractor hypothesis and, if not, what kind of experimental data would be necessary to do so.
A challenge for the original formulation of attractor networks was their reliance on fixed-point attractors, i.e., self-sustained patterns of activity associated with stationary firing rates for the neurons in the network. Although some neurons display this type of stationary self-sustained activity, neuronal activity profiles recorded in-vivo are very often time-varying. In principle, the attractor framework can accommodate time varying activity, i.e., there can be attractive trajectories of activation in the space of activity in the network. However, our theoretical understanding of how to produce such patterns of activity is much more limited.
Three of our speakers (Durstewitz, Laurent and Abeles) will discuss physiological evidence in favor of time-varying attractors in the rodent prefrontal cortex and in the locust olfactory system. Recently, it has been suggested that complex recurrent networks may produce memory function in the absence of attractors. The recurrent network in this framework, called a Liquid State Machine, carries information in its instantaneous time-varying activity about the recent history of inputs to the network. Although the robustness and feasibility of this theoretical paradigm is still an active topic of discussion, one of our speakers (Maass - an initial proponent of these ideas) will discuss recordings from the visual cortex which show evidence in favor of this framework. Several reasons make this the right time to bring together theoreticians and experimentalists to discuss the dynamics of memory. First, the existence of a diversity of experimental techniques - especially, but not exclusively, the ability to record the simultaneous activity of large populations of neurons - which are capable of providing evidence sufficiently precise so as to discard proposed theoretical alternatives. Second, the progressive infiltration of theoretical ideas into experimental journals and forums has made it possible for experimentalists to become familiar and interested in quantitative approaches which, until recently, were only discussed among theoreticians. Because of this, we feel like this conference will be of great interest to systems neuroscientists, both those using experimental as well as theoretical approaches.
This activity is a one-time satellite event to the FENS Forum of European Neuroscience.

List of Speakers 


Moshe Abeles, Hebrew University, Israel

Matthew Chafee, University of Minnesota, USA

Albert Compte, IDIBAPS, Spain

Daniel Durstewitz, BCCN Heidelberg-Mannheim, Germany

Rainer Friedrich, FMIBR, Switzerland

Mark Goldman, UC Davis, USA

Wolfgang Maass, Graz Univ. of Technology, Austria

Matthias Munk, MPI Tuebingen, Germany

Alessandro Treves, SISSA, Italy

Misha Tsodyks, Weizmann, Israel
Kechen Zhang, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
 You can check the programme here
 Registration (CLOSED)


General registration fee: 150 €


Junior registration fee (for PhD students and post-docs having read the thesis in the last three years): 75 €

The registration fee and the junior registration fee cover: attendance to the lectures, documentation package, social dinner, cultural activity, and coffee breaks.

Deadline for registration and payment:  June 30, 2012 Extended to July 7
To register: Look near the top or bottom right and there should be a shopping trolley. Click on this to register. At the very top of the next screen will be a heading saying ‘You have 1 activities to cart’, click on this and then follow the instructions. 


 Poster Session


We welcome abstract submissions that focus on issues related to the Conference. Deadline for submission of poster abstracts ends June 21 (deadline extended). Send your abstract as pdf file to the Conference secretariat to Neus Portet (
The Scientific Committee expects to have high quality posters presented at the meeting. Abstract acceptance will be based on scientific content. Abstracts that are incomplete, or contain insufficient data will be rejected. Though you are not required to register for the meeting prior to submitting an abstract, the presenter of the abstract must register for the meeting.
Poster information: Posters should be a maximum of 1 meter wide by 2 meters high in size.

Housing information for participants . Please note that if choosing from the list you should choose a hotel in downtown Barcelona. The closest to the Conference venue are: Residència d'Investigadors, Hotel Turin, Hotel Jazz and Hotel Ambassador.
For further information, please contact CRM Administration.