Nicolas Brunel

Nicolas Brunel

Professor of Neurobiology

Professor of Physics (Joint)

Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Office Location: 
311 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710
(919) 684-8684


We use theoretical models of brain systems to investigate how they process and learn information from their inputs. Our current work focuses on the mechanisms of learning and memory, from the synapse to the network level, in collaboration with various experimental groups. Using methods from
statistical physics, we have shown recently that the synaptic
connectivity of a network that maximizes storage capacity reproduces
two key experimentally observed features: low connection probability
and strong overrepresentation of bidirectionnally connected pairs of
neurons. We have also inferred `synaptic plasticity rules' (a
mathematical description of how synaptic strength depends on the
activity of pre and post-synaptic neurons) from data, and shown that
networks endowed with a plasticity rule inferred from data have a
storage capacity that is close to the optimal bound.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Pierre and Marie Curie University (France) 1993

Zillmer, Rüdiger, et al. “Very long transients, irregular firing, and chaotic dynamics in networks of randomly connected inhibitory integrate-and-fire neurons.Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys, vol. 79, no. 3 Pt 1, Mar. 2009, p. 031909. Pubmed, doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.79.031909. Full Text

Dugué, Guillaume P., et al. “Electrical coupling mediates tunable low-frequency oscillations and resonance in the cerebellar Golgi cell network.Neuron, vol. 61, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 126–39. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2008.11.028. Full Text

Mazzoni, Alberto, et al. “Encoding of naturalistic stimuli by local field potential spectra in networks of excitatory and inhibitory neurons.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 4, no. 12, Dec. 2008, p. e1000239. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000239. Full Text

Roxin, Alex, et al. “The statistics of repeating patterns of cortical activity can be reproduced by a model network of stochastic binary neurons.J Neurosci, vol. 28, no. 42, Oct. 2008, pp. 10734–45. Pubmed, doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1016-08.2008. Full Text

Barbieri, Francesca, and Nicolas Brunel. “Can attractor network models account for the statistics of firing during persistent activity in prefrontal cortex?Front Neurosci, vol. 2, no. 1, July 2008, pp. 114–22. Pubmed, doi:10.3389/neuro.01.003.2008. Full Text

de Solages, Camille, et al. “High-frequency organization and synchrony of activity in the purkinje cell layer of the cerebellum.Neuron, vol. 58, no. 5, June 2008, pp. 775–88. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2008.05.008. Full Text

Brunel, Nicolas, and Vincent Hakim. “Sparsely synchronized neuronal oscillations.Chaos, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2008, p. 015113. Pubmed, doi:10.1063/1.2779858. Full Text

Brunel, Nicolas. “Daniel Amit (1938-2007).Network, vol. 19, no. 1, 2008, pp. 3–8. Pubmed, doi:10.1080/09548980801915391. Full Text

Battaglia, Demian, et al. “Temporal decorrelation of collective oscillations in neural networks with local inhibition and long-range excitation.Phys Rev Lett, vol. 99, no. 23, Dec. 2007, p. 238106. Pubmed, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.99.238106. Full Text

Barbour, Boris, et al. “What can we learn from synaptic weight distributions?Trends Neurosci, vol. 30, no. 12, Dec. 2007, pp. 622–29. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.tins.2007.09.005. Full Text