Pioneer of ‘mind-reading’ AI to open Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture series in Roanoke | Virginia Tech News

Once the fodder of science fiction, mind-reading synthetic intelligence (AI) is now not far-fetched – it’s already right here. And researchers like Virginia Tech’s very personal Read Montague have spent many years constructing it.
“What began as a backwater motion in the ’80s is now a revolution with untold potential,” mentioned Montague, the Virginia Tech Carilion Vernon Mountcastle Research Professor and director of the Center for Human Neuroscience Research on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. 
Montague is among the many world’s prime neuroscientists who’ve lengthy deployed machine studying instruments to decode and predict complicated human behaviors and neural signaling that assist them. 
Now he is lifting the lid on what he’s realized over 30 years as a frontrunner in computational psychiatry neuroscience. He will discover the historical past of machine studying in neuroscience and his analysis in his speak, “Machine Learning and Human Thought,” at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28 on the analysis institute. 
Montague’s analysis has spanned the neural foundation of dangerous decision-making, affirmation bias, risk-reward evaluation, psychological states through the simulated fee of a criminal offense, impulsiveness, and political ideologies. 
His group was the primary to observe nanoscale variations in mind chemical compounds in awake people in a groundbreaking 2011 research. Montague later found how dopamine and serotonin collectively underpin sensory processing and human notion in 2016, 2018, and 2020. 
With collaborator and fellow Fralin Biomedical Research Institute professor Stephen LaConte, Montague established one of the world’s first labs making use of optically pumped magnetometry, a breakthrough mind imaging method, to parse the intricacies of social interplay.
He was invited by his former mentor and colleague Michael Friedlander, govt director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice chairman for well being sciences and expertise, to current the institute’s 116th Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture, debuting the 2023-34 series. 
“Dr. Montague’s contributions to neuroscience have enriched our understanding of the mind and paved the way in which for a brand new period of scientific exploration,” Friedlander mentioned. “I can’t assume of a greater thought chief to share prescient insights concerning the influence of machine studying on mind analysis till now and what the longer term may maintain. It’s an honor to share one of our personal extremely regarded scientists with our group.” 
Today, Montague’s friends and college students revere his vanguard intersectional approaches to learning the mind. Over the years, he’s collaborated with economists, physicists, neurosurgeons, attorneys, and psychologists to discover novel scientific questions. 
Unlike many neuroscientists who began as biologists, psychologists, or chemists, Montague was a mathematician at Auburn University earlier than finishing a doctoral diploma in physiology and biophysics on the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Friedlander’s lab.
“I used to be a senior in faculty after I learn a paper by Geoffrey Hinton – the daddy of AI – and Terry Sejnowski, describing the very first studying algorithms for Boltzmann machines. That research galvanized my curiosity in neural networks, and from that time, I used to be set on working in Terry’s lab,” Montague mentioned. 
And that’s what he did. But it took some time to get there.
Montague accomplished a theoretical neurobiology fellowship sponsored by Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman at Rockefeller University’s Neurosciences Institute and later joined joined Sejnowski’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Computational Neurobiology Lab on the Salk Institute. 
In collaboration with Peter Dayan, director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, Montague proposed a reinforcement studying mannequin of the that means of dopamine signaling in the mind – a mannequin that’s now seen as a signature breakthrough for computational fashions that yield new insights into mind perform. 
“Even again then, Dr. Montague was pushing boundaries. He was among the many first to apply machine-learning fashions to interpret huge quantities of fMRI knowledge. He was among the many first to measure neurochemical ranges in awake people utilizing machine-learning enhanced cyclic voltammetry. And he’s now among the many first to encode mind’s magnetic waves with unprecedented decision, opening up new methods to visualize mind exercise. The sheer scope of his analysis is exceptional,” Friedlander mentioned. 
Montague has printed about 140 scientific papers in high-impact journals, accumulating over 42,000 citations. Recently, his analysis operation has been awarded a brand new $3 million award for computational neurochemistry work in aware people, and the group at present maintains 4 energetic National Institutes of Health grants in addition to two initiatives just lately funded by the Red Gates Foundation as half of a landmark $50 million reward to the institute earlier this month. 
Before becoming a member of Virginia Tech in 2010, Montague was the Brown Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, the place he based and directed the Human Neuroimaging Lab. 
In addition to his major appointment on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Montague is a professor with the College of Science’s physics division and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s psychiatry and behavioral drugs division. 
Last 12 months, Montague offered a Nobel Mini-symposium lecture hosted by the Nobel Assembly in Stockholm and targeted on his early modeling work of the dopamine system. In 2018, he gave the Dorcas Cummings Memorial Lecture at Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory, and in 2012, he delivered a TEDGlobal speak in Edinburgh.
He is an honorary professor with the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging at University College London and was a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow from 2011-18. He previously was a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He obtained the Walter Gilbert Award from Auburn University and the William R. and Irene D. Miller Lectureship from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2011 and was awarded the Michael E. DeBakey Excellence in Research Award in 1997 and 2005.
“Beyond his technological improvements, Montague has opened a vital window into human conduct in well being and illness together with his key function in creating the temporal distinction prediction reward speculation,” Friedlander mentioned. “This idea has now been straight examined in the dwelling mind, is foundational to trendy neuroscience, and supplies deep insights into beforehand unrecognized conduct. In addition to offering insights into human mind well being, this speculation has been validated by Montague and his group in offering a deeper understanding from an evolutionary biology perspective into behaviors equivalent to how honey bees course of and share important details about nectar sources with their conspecifics.” 
The institute’s free public lecture series is made attainable by Maury Strauss, a longtime Roanoke businessman and benefactor who acknowledges the significance of bringing main biomedical analysis scientists to the group. 
The public is welcome to attend the lecture, preceded by a 5 p.m. reception in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. Montague’s speak can be streamed stay by way of Zoom and archived on the institute’s web site.

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