Areas of interest

My main interests lie, not surprisingly, at the intersection of my academic background (see my CV). For specific papers, you can find links from my CV to electronic versions. In brief, my papers and research focus on the following areas:

Information on the theoretical neuroscience topics is best found at the CTN or CNRG websites (or email me).

I've been heavily involved in developing a proposal for a Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Waterloo, which is now (Oct 06) a reality. We are currently hiring in this area, and now (Oct 08) have space in a new building.

My research is currently funded by NSERC, a Canada Research Chair, CFI/OIT, and OpenText. Some funding has been used to build a Beowulf cluster supercomputer to simulate our models using our NESim modeling environment (in Matlab).

In 2003, MIT Press published the book I've coauthored with Charles Anderson, Neural Engineering: Computation, Representation, and Dynamics in Neurobiological Systems. In this book, we describe a general framework for modeling neurobiological systems in a realistic manner. Details of the framework, and some examples of its application, related publications, etc. can be found at the CNRG home page.

Older stuff below here

In May of 2000 I finished writing my Ph.D. thesis entitled What neurons mean: A neurocomputational theory of representational content (here is the abstract). Some of this material appeared in my 2003 J. Phil paper. In the thesis I present a theory of representation which combines the traditional strengths of informational/causal and functional role theories of content. I use an earlier relative of the neurocomputational theory described in the book (above) to specify how to understand content at many levels of description. I defend this new theory against the traditional problems had by internalist, externalist, and two-factor theories of content. Click here to download the thesis in .pdf format.

In 2000, I received a McDonnell Project in the Neurosciences grant and am working on a project related to my thesis work. Specifically, I plan on applying my theory of content to experimental results from neuroscience to both show that it produces reasonable results and to fine tune it.

Previously, I developed a (psychological-level) computer model called Drama which uses distributed representations in modeling human analogical abilities. In particular, the model uses a form of tensor product representations (HRRs) to capture complex relations while maintaining the strengths of distributed representation. This work was done with Paul Thagard.

My master's thesis (.pdf) focused on a new approach to modeling the mind called dynamic systems theory. Both my thesis, and a number of subsequent publications provide a critique of this approach. I argue that dynamicism is not a new paradigm for understanding the mind, but an important addition to connectionism. As a philosophical position, dynamic systems theory is untenable.

 

Email: eliasmith@uwaterloo.ca.

Last updated Nov. 2012 

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