Biological Computation

The Biological Computation Interdepartmental Research Group ( consists of We organize cross-disciplinary meetings and discussions in Cambridge.

Half-day Meeting coming November 7th 1997:

Stimulating Theories in Molecular Neuroscience

We held a three-day meeting in Cambridge in April 1996:

Random Processes in Cells

The themes of the meeting were computation and information transmission in systems where thermal noise and Poisson noise play a significant role, at molecular, cellular and neurobiological levels. A further description of the theme follows below.

This meeting was supported by a grant from the Gatsby foundation.

Speakers were invited to talk on topics including:

Segregation of chromosomes at mitosis
Stochasticity in the control of gene expression
Signal transduction within cells
Thermal fluctuations in cellular channels
Chemotactic behaviour in bacteria
Noise at synapses
Information content of small numbers of neuronal spikes
Correlations among spiking neurons
Computation in networks of spiking neurons
(theory and engineering aspects)
Error correction in DNA duplication and protein synthesis.

Dennis Bray's original title and summary:

Stochastic Processes in Living Cells
Many processes occurring in living cells and organisms are traditionally represented mathematically by continuous functions involving rate constants. Large numbers of discrete events in which individual molecules undergo a chemical or conformational change are "averaged" so as to provide a description of the most probable changes in the population in the next interval of time. This procedure is useful and reliable so long as the phenomenon of interest is the result of billions of identical molecular events. However, the "rate constant" approach fails to describe biological processes that depend on the performance of individual molecules or small sets of molecules. The latter are governed not by uniform rate constants but by probabilities, noise, thermal energies, and information content. The purpose of this Symposium would be to bring together (for the first time?) scientists from a wide range of disciplines all of whom have experience and insight into stochastic events at the molecular level taking place in living cells.

David MacKay <>
Last modified: Thu Oct 2 14:48:01 1997