Frédéric E. Theunissen

Guest Scientist

Main Focus

            Auditory physiology. Using songbirds as a model system, my laboratory is researching the neural representation of behaviorally relevant natural sounds at various levels of the ascending auditory system.  We have previously described how the auditory cortex acts as a modulation filter bank.  We are now studying the neural computations that allow us to categorize sounds into meaningful groups.  We are also studying the development of the auditory system and the interaction of the auditory system with the vocal system.  In collaboration with other groups, we perform similar investigations using human neuro-physiological data.

            Theoretical Neuroscience in Audition. The goal of this line of research is to derive computational schemes for sound processing that would be beneficial for biological organisms faced with the identification of behaviorally relevant sounds or sound features presented in a background of environmental noise.  We then study the link between these optimal computational schemes and major perceptual dimensions in audition.  These theoretical predictions are tested against our physiological data. 

            Computational Neuroscience. My laboratory is currently developing analytical and numerical algorithms in applied systems analysis and information theory.  We use these tools to estimate the response propreties, the reliability and the redundancy of high-level sensory neurons. 

            Auditory and Vocal Behavior. My laboratory is also interested in vocal communication behavior in humans and animals.  This works combines bioacoustical analyses with experiments in animal behavior or human psychophysics.  At a proximal level, we are interested in understanding the link between neural representations for communication sounds (or music) to the behavioral auditory discrimination for the same stimuli.  At an ultimate level, we design experiments to gain insights on the evolution of communication calls in terms of their signaling characteristics, their volutional control and adaptations that have lead to vocal plasticity and imitation.

Curriculum Vitae


            2010-now        Professor, Psychology and Neurosciences Institute, UC Berkeley.

            2005-2010       Associate Professor. Psychology and Neurosciences Institute. UC Berkeley

            1998-2005       Assistant Professor. Psychology and Neurosciences Institute. UC Berkeley.


Education and Training

            1995-1998       Post-Doctoral Training. Physiology and Psychiatry. Dr. Doupe. UC San Francisco.

            1993-1995       Post-Doctoral Training. MCB Neuroscience. Dr. Miller and Dr. Jacobs. UC Berkeley.

            1993                Ph.D. Biophysics. UC Berkeley.

            1985                B. S. Engineering Physics. UC Berkeley.


Honors and Awards

            2019                Humboldt Research Award

            1999-2002       Searle Scholar

1999-2001      Sloan Fellow

1996-1998      NIMH Post-doctoral fellowship

1995-1998      Sloan fellow post-doctoral fellowship in Theoretical Neuroscience, UC San Francisco

1989-90          University fellow (graduate), UC Berkeley

1983-85          Chancellor fellow (undergraduate), UC Berkeley


Professional Society Memberships

            International Neurothelogical Society

            Neuroscience Society


Other Professional Experience

            Computer Programmer at Berkeley Solar Group. Simulations of energy expenditures in residential and commercial buildings. 1985-88

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