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Simon THORPE, France

Directeur de Recherche CNRS
Member of the CNRS "Comité National" Section 27

Research Interests
My current interests are centred on understanding the phenomenal processing speed achieved by the visual system. For a number of years we have been running experiments that attempt to measure just howfast visual processing is using briefly flashed natural scenes using a combination of electrophysiological and behavioural methods. With Holle Kirchner, we recently found that when two images aresimultaneously flashed to the left and right of the fixation point, humans can initiate saccades to the side where the scene contains an animal in only 130 ms. Such severe temporal constraints pose majorproblems for virtually all current theories of visual processing. In an attempt to explain this sort of ultra-rapid processing I proposed a novel coding scheme that uses the order in which cells fire spikes,rather than firing rates to encode information. It turns out that using such a code may allow us recognise objects when as few as 1% of the neurons in the visual pathways have fired a spike. In 1999, I setup a company (SpikeNet Technology) that has developed image processing software based on these principles. A demo of the software can be downloaded from the company web site (

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