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  Building a Visual World - How The Brain Creates Statistical Representations

   Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

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  Dr Elizabeth Zavitz  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Artificial neural networks, and the brains that inspired them, operate on information distributed across many nodes. This distributed information is sometimes called a representation. In this project, you'll set out to understand how the brain creates and uses representations of visual information to understand the biological bases of perception and advance artificial visual systems. 

This interdisciplinary project aims to demonstrate the presence and computation of an invariant representation for texture structure. Texture structure is an exciting problem in representation learning because 1) there are candidate biological neural circuits for where this computation is performed, and 2) texture is inherently statistically defined - the same "stuff" can be communicated with a completely different pattern of pixel intensities.

This project will help us understand how neurons encode properties of natural images, define a novel computational tool for analysing textures, and create new knowledge of how multiple brain areas work together to represent the visual world. This should provide significant benefits for the development of artificial vision systems and impact brain research broadly by increasing the number of tools available to predict complex representations at the cellular level.

There are the following learning opportunities that may be tailored to the interests of the student:

  • extracellular electrophysiological recordings from populations of neurons in the visual cortex
  • psychophysical studies in humans
  • using computational models as explicit theories of human perception and neural function
  • artificial neural network design

Application instructions

Please get in touch with information about your goals and interests. I'd like to know:

  • What are your goals after the PhD and how do you think the PhD will help you reach them?
  • Are there any specific skills you want to build as a PhD student?
  • What kind of work do you like to do?
Biological Sciences (4) Computer Science (8) Engineering (12) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Students are expected to apply for a scholarship, but there is funding for the position with or without a scholarship.
Link to scholarship competitions:


Zavitz, E., & Price, N. S. (2019). Understanding Sensory Information Processing Through Simultaneous Multi-area Population Recordings. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 12.
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