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CRM > English > Activities > ESF Exploratory Workshop
ESF Exploratory Workshop


ESF_green_logo_petita.GIF Button for Month of the Brain SwartzFoundationLogo_petit.JPG
General information 
May 28 to 31, 2013
Sant Fruitós de Bages (Catalonia, Spain)
This is a European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop and participation is by invitation only
Group picture
Online talks can be found at 
Albert Compte, IDIBAPS, Barcelona
Gustavo Deco, UPF, Barcelona
Jaime de la Rocha, IDIBAPS, Barcelona
Alex Roxin, CRM, Barcelona
Klaus Wimmer, IDIBAPS, Barcelona
General schedule 
Arrival                          Afternoon / Evening of Tuesday 28 May, 2013
Meeting opens:              9:00 on Wednesday 29 May, 2013
Meeting closes:             15:00 on Friday 31 May, 2013
Departure                     Afternoon of Friday 31 May, 2013
Meeting venue:             See item below

​Meeting venue and accomodation

Hotel Món

Camí de Sant Benet de Bages, s/n (08272 Sant Fruitós de Bages)

Tel. +34 938759404

Fax: +34 938759420​

How to find us:​

Attention: Reservations are made by the organizers. Participants shouldn't make any reservation changes on their own. Instead contact the organizers with your particular concern (see organization contact information below).

The organization will arrange charter transportation from the Barcelona airport (El Prat, airport code BCN) based on landing times of most participants, and give information about alternative public transport options​

Behavior seems inherently stochastic: even for identical repetitions of a simple perceptual decision task, our responses are variable. What do we know about the mechanisms that generate this “noisy” behavior? Brain activity is also highly irregular and seemingly stochastic. Neuronal variability and co-variability have been hypothesized to be inevitable consequences of the neural circuitry and are typically referred to as noise. Numerous physiological studies have shown a link between variability in sensory areas and behavioral variability, suggesting a causal role of neuronal noise in biasing decisions. A classical theoretical study proposed a simple circuitry in which variable behavior can emerge from stochastic neural activity (Shadlen et al., 1996).  This model has served as a fundamental framework to design, analyze and interpret experimental data over the years. Recent theoretical and experimental results are prompting, however, for a revision of the model postulates. For example, neural variability does not seem to be a hard-wired feature of cortical circuits but seems to be temporally modulated by contextual variables and events such as the stimulus itself. Moreover, co-variability does not seem to be an inevitable consequence of shared input, and could be, at least in part, explained by variations of top-down signals onto sensory areas such as attention or expectation. Multiple theoretical models have investigated the generation of variability and co-variability in recurrent cortical circuits but, until now, few have investigated the consequences of their findings for perceptual decision-making. During this workshop neurophysiologists and modelers will discuss the most recent findings, both experimental and theoretical, on neuronal variability and its impact on behavior, and will try to reformulate the standard framework laid out more than fifteen years ago.


The workshop will be organized in talks of 25 min. (+ 5min for questions) around the two driving questions of the meeting:


1. What is the origin of variability in brain activity (contributions from external inputs, synaptic and neural mechanisms, micro-circuit dynamics, global brain states, etc.)?

2. What is the role, if any, of neuronal variability in decision making / perception / behavior?


To contribute in focusing the discussion, we kindly ask all the speakers to try to address, at least indirectly, these two questions in their presentations. 

List of participants

1.            Matthias Bethge (Univ. Tübingen, Germany)

2.            Laura Busse (Univ. Tübingen, Germany)

3.            Matteo Carandini (UCL, UK)

4.            Anne Churchland  (CSHL, USA)

5.            Bruce Cumming (NIH, USA)

6.            Sophie Denève (ENS, France)

7.            Georgia Gregoriou (Univ. of Crete, Greece)

8.            Ralf Haefner  (Central European University, Hungary)

9.            Christian Machens  (Champalimaud Found., Portugal)

10.          Zach Mainen  (Champalimaud Found., Portugal)

11.          Rubén Moreno-Bote  (Found. Sant Joan de Déu, Spain)

12.          Charvy Narain (Senior Editor, Nature Neuroscience)

13.          Hendrikje Nienborg (Univ. Tübingen, Germany)

14.    Giovanni Pacini (ESF Rapporteur)

15.          Satu Palva (Univ. Helsinki, Finland)

16.          Néstor Parga  (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain)

17.          Tatiana Pasternak  (Univ. Rochester, USA)

18.          Alexandre Pouget  (Univ. de Genève, Switzerland)

19.          Alfonso Renart  (Champalimaud Found., Portugal)

20.          Petra Ritter (Charité Berlin, Germany)

21.          Douglas Ruff (Pittsburgh Univ., USA)

22.          Michael Shadlen  (Columbia Univ., USA)

23.          Catherine Tallon-Baudry (CNRS, France)

24.          Alex Thiele (Univ. Newcastle, UK)

25.          Xiao-Jing Wang (Yale Univ., USA)

26.          Albert Compte (IDIBAPS, Barcelona) *

27.          Gustavo Deco (UPF, Barcelona) *

28.          Jaime de la Rocha (IDIBAPS, Barcelona) *

29.          Alex Roxin (CRM, Barcelona) *

30.          Klaus Wimmer (IDIBAPS, Barcelona) *

(* organizers) ​​

Further information

For further information please contact the workshop coordinator​:

Neus Portet (​)