Graduate Program in Neuroscience

April 10, 2019

Bing Brunton uses flying insects to understand how fewer sensors and data helps the insect make instantaneous decisions

“Big Data is all the rage. There is a tendency to say that more data is always better. That’s true to a certain extent, but it’s not always true” says Bing Brunton, a Neuroscience Faculty member. Bing uses flying insects to analyze neuron inputs that help make quick decisions. Flying insects are used as their sensors only provide the most up to date and pertinent information to make decisions. This demonstrates the quote above, that although big data is certainly useful, it is most important to collect the right data.

Brunton and her team are trying to discover exactly how these decisions are made and what information is being sent back and forth between the brain and the insects wings. While Brunton’s findings provide clues to moths’ aerial talents, there are many questions she still hopes to answer. Her team has a sense of how a moth might detect wind gusts, but not how the neurons then tell the moth to respond to that input. And they still don’t fully understand how moths accomplish so much with minimal data, or sparsity. But they’re getting closer.

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