Neural Coding and Dynamics
Ila Fiete builds theoretical models and tools that are elucidating computations performed by the brain as it interacts with the world. Her focus includes describing how plasticity and development shape networks to perform computation and how the brain represents and manipulates information. She works closely with collaborators to design experiments that allow analysis of how the brain solves complex tasks, such as spatial navigation. By combining theoretical insights with predictions and designs for experiment, Fiete aims to better understand how the brain constructs and uses memory for spatial and non-spatial reasoning, the mechanisms for error control in neural codes, and rules for synaptic plasticity that enable neural circuit organization. Through these avenues, she hopes to better understand the circuits underlying phenomena including short-term memory, integration, and inference, navigation, and reasoning in the brain.
A goal of systems neuroscience is to discover the circuit mechanisms underlying brain function, but neural recordings often provide an observational and sparse dataset. Fiete works with researchers to analyze neural data in light of theoretical models, incorporating predictions about the effects of perturbations to infer circuit mechanisms, for example in grid cells
linked to spatial navigation.
Fiete joined the McGovern Institute as an associate investigator in early 2019, soon after arriving at MIT to join the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Fiete earned a BS in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Michigan, obtaining her PhD at Harvard University in the Department of Physics in 2004. She conducted her postdoctoral work at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara while she was also a visiting member of the Center for Theoretical Biophysics at the University of California, San Diego. Fiete subsequently spent two years at Caltech as a Broad Fellow in brain circuitry, then joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin.
Honors and Awards
Howard Hughes Faculty Scholar, 2016
Advisory Board Member, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, 2015
Office of Naval Research Young Investigator, 2013
College of Natural Sciences Teaching Excellence Award, University of Texas at Austin, 2013
McKnight Endowment Scholar, 2011
Searle Scholar, 2010