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

Higgins, David, et al. “Memory maintenance in synapses with calcium-based plasticity in the presence of background activity.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 10, no. 10, Oct. 2014, p. e1003834. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003834. Full Text Open Access Copy

Dubreuil, Alexis M., et al. “Memory capacity of networks with stochastic binary synapses.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 10, no. 8, Aug. 2014, p. e1003727. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003727. Full Text Open Access Copy

Clopath, Claudia, et al. “A cerebellar learning model of vestibulo-ocular reflex adaptation in wild-type and mutant mice.J Neurosci, vol. 34, no. 21, May 2014, pp. 7203–15. Pubmed, doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2791-13.2014. Full Text

Brunel, Nicolas, et al. “Single neuron dynamics and computation.Curr Opin Neurobiol, vol. 25, Apr. 2014, pp. 149–55. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.conb.2014.01.005. Full Text

Tartaglia, Elisa M., et al. “On the relationship between persistent delay activity, repetition enhancement and priming.Front Psychol, vol. 5, 2014, p. 1590. Pubmed, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01590. Full Text Open Access Copy

Hertäg, Loreen, et al. “Analytical approximations of the firing rate of an adaptive exponential integrate-and-fire neuron in the presence of synaptic noise.Front Comput Neurosci, vol. 8, 2014, p. 116. Pubmed, doi:10.3389/fncom.2014.00116. Full Text Open Access Copy

Clopath, Claudia, and Nicolas Brunel. “Optimal properties of analog perceptrons with excitatory weights.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 9, no. 2, 2013, p. e1002919. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002919. Full Text Open Access Copy

Graupner, Michael, and Nicolas Brunel. “Calcium-based plasticity model explains sensitivity of synaptic changes to spike pattern, rate, and dendritic location.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol. 109, no. 10, Mar. 2012, pp. 3991–96. Pubmed, doi:10.1073/pnas.1109359109. Full Text

Clopath, Claudia, et al. “Storage of correlated patterns in standard and bistable Purkinje cell models.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 8, no. 4, 2012, p. e1002448. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002448. Full Text Open Access Copy

Roxin, Alex, et al. “On the distribution of firing rates in networks of cortical neurons.J Neurosci, vol. 31, no. 45, Nov. 2011, pp. 16217–26. Pubmed, doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1677-11.2011. Full Text