Brains, Minds + Machines Seminar Series: Have We Missed Half of What the Neocortex Does? Allocentric Location as the Basis of Perception

Photo of Jeff Hawkins
December 15, 2017 - 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm

Jeff Hawkins, Co-Founder, Numenta


Please note the change in start time. This talk will be starting at 4:30pm, on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.

Abstract:  In this talk I will describe a theory that sensory regions of the neocortex process two inputs. One input is the well-known sensory data arriving via thalamic relay cells. We propose the second input is a representation of allocentric location. The allocentric location represents where the sensed feature is relative to the object being sensed, in an object-centric reference frame. As the sensors move, cortical columns learn complete models of objects by integrating sensory features and location representations over time. Lateral projections allow columns to rapidly reach a consensus of what object is being sensed. We propose that the representation of allocentric location is derived locally, in layer 6 of each column, using the same tiling principles as grid cells in the entorhinal cortex. Because individual cortical columns are able to model complete complex objects, cortical regions are far more powerful than currently believed. The inclusion of allocentric location offers the possibility of rapid progress in understanding the function of numerous aspects of cortical anatomy.

I will be discussing material from these two papers. Others can be found at

A Theory of How Columns in the Neocortex Enable Learning the Structure of the World

Why Neurons Have Thousands of Synapses, A Theory of Sequence Memory in the Neocortex


Speaker Biography:  Jeff Hawkins is a scientist and co-founder at Numenta, an independent research company focused on neocortical theory. His research focuses on how the cortex learns predictive models of the world through sensation and movement. In 2002, he founded the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, where he served as Director for three years. The institute is currently located at U.C. Berkeley. Previously, he co-founded two companies, Palm and Handspring, where he designed products such as the PalmPilot and Treo smartphone. In 2004 he wrote “On Intelligence”, a book about cortical theory.

Hawkins earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1979. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2003.


43 Vassar St, Cambridge MA 02139


December 15, 2017


4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Singleton Auditorium (MIT 46-3002)

3rd Floor, MIT Bldg 46, 43 Vassar St., Cambridge MA 02139