Research Meeting: Module 2 research presentation by Drs. Jie Zheng and Mengmi Zhang

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October 26, 2021 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Drs. Jie Zheng and Mengmi Zhang


Please note, Dr. Zhang will be presenting remotely via Zoom.



Jie Zheng's presentation:

Title: Neurons that structure memories of ordered experience in human

 Abstract: The process of constructing temporal associations among related events is essential to episodic memory. However, what neural mechanism helps accomplish this function remains unclear. To address this question, we recorded single unit activity in humans while subjects performed a temporal order memory task. During encoding, subjects watched a series of clips (i.e., each clip consisted of 4 events) and were later instructed to retrieve the ordinal information of event sequences. We found that hippocampal neurons in humans could index specific orders of events with increased neuronal firings (i.e., rate order cells) or clustered spike timing relative to theta phases (i.e., phase order cells), which are transferrable across different encoding experiences (e.g., different clips). Rate order cells also increased their firing rates when subjects correctly retrieved the temporal information of their preferred ordered events. Phase order cells demonstrated stronger phase precessions at event transitions during encoding for clips whose ordinal information was subsequently correct retrieved. These results not only highlight the critical role of the hippocampus in structuring memories of continuous event sequences but also suggest a potential neural code representing temporal associations among events.


Mengmi Zhang's [virtual] presentation:

Title: Visual Search Asymmetry: Deep Nets and Humans Share Similar Inherent Biases

Abstract: Visual search is a ubiquitous and often challenging daily task, exemplified by looking for the car keys at home or a friend in a crowd. An intriguing property of some classical search tasks is an asymmetry such that finding a target A among distractors B can be easier than finding B among A. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible for asymmetry in visual search, we propose a computational model that takes a target and a search image as inputs and produces a sequence of eye movements until the target is found. The model integrates eccentricity-dependent visual recognition with target-dependent top-down cues. We compared the model against human behavior in six paradigmatic search tasks that show asymmetry in humans. Without prior exposure to the stimuli or task-specific training, the model provides a plausible mechanism for search asymmetry. We hypothesized that the polarity of search asymmetry arises from experience with the natural environment. We tested this hypothesis by training the model on an augmented version of ImageNet where the biases of natural images were either removed or reversed. The polarity of search asymmetry disappeared or was altered depending on the training protocol. This study highlights how classical perceptual properties can emerge in neural network models, without the need for task-specific training, but rather as a consequence of the statistical properties of the developmental diet fed to the model. Our work will be presented in the upcoming Neurips conference, 2021. All source code and stimuli are publicly available this https URL


The Fall 2021 CBMM Research Meetings will be hosted in a hybrid format. Please see the information included below regarding attending the event either in-person or remotely via Zoom connection

Details to attend talk remotely via Zoom:

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Guidance for attending in-person:

MIT attendees:
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Non-MIT attendees:

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MIT Building 46 | Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex
October 26, 2021
4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
MIBR Seminar Room 46-3189