Born in the American Midwest (Kansas City), I grew up in Amsterdam/Holland, Bonn/Germany, Ottawa/Canada, and Rabat/Marocco where I graduated from the Lycée Descartes with a French Baccalaurèat (Section C) in 1974.
I studied Physics and Philosophy in Tübingen, Germany, and was awarded my Master of Physics in 1980 and my PhD (Nonlinear information processing in dendritic trees of arbitrary geometry) from the Max-Planck-Institut for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in 1982. My Doctor-Fathers were Prof. Valentin Braitenberg and Prof. Tomaso Poggio.
After four years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Department of Psychology at MIT, I joined Caltech's newly started Computation and Neural Systems option in 1986 as a Professor of Computation and Neural Systems, running K-Lab as well as being the Executive Officer of CNS. I remain at Caltech to this day.
My major intellectual interests are:
Finding out how consciousness arises out of the brain. My long-term goal is to discover and characterize the neuronal correlates of consciousness (the NCC). I collaborated for 16 years in this exciting endeavor with the late Dr. Francis Crick at the Salk Institute. For a brief summary of our thoughts on this aspect of the Mind-Brain problem, see this paper that appeared in Nature Neuroscience in 2003. A photo-essay and the cover story from the LA Weekly provide a different view.This research has made its way into a book for a general scientific audience, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neuroscientific Approach. The book discusses the Crick-Koch framework for how consciousness, the subjective mind, arises out of the flickering interactions within the neurons of the cerebral cortex and related structures.
You can download my publications as well as a detailed Curriculum Vitae (in .pdf format).
In the spring of 2005, I will be teaching CNS/Bi 120: The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness". I will not be teaching Vision until the winter of 2006.
In collaboration with Digital Studio, S.A. in Paris, France, I'm working on a 13 minute long animated movie travelling through the visual system, from the retina to deep into cortex ( see one frame from a pilot).
In the summer of 2000, my son Alexander and I joined an archeological expedition to dig up part of the Temple built by King Herod in 20 BC in Caesarea, along the Israeli coast. While there, I got a Apple tattoo. Together with the Boeing B-747 Jumbo Jet and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Apple Macintosh is the most beautiful and elegant artifact of the 20-th century. A perfect marriage of form with function. And to answer the obvious question, yes, this tattoo will remain this crisp and cool until the day I die.
Check out these images of my brain. Cool, eh! To find out more or to look at most of my brain, hit this button .
To see a photograph of me sitting in a tree, hit here .
To return to the main laboratory page, click here