Prof. Kenneth Harriss is at the Institute of Neurology at the University College London. Prof. Harriss is yet another exile from the rigorous field of Mathematics, who found a refuge under the cushy wing of the fuzziness of the Neurosciences.
Together with a more experimentally-minded Matteo Carandini, he runs the ‘cortical processing lab’, which developed the now famous Neuropixels probes.
As a theorist, unconstrained by the trivialities of failing experiments and the need for constant practice to develop technical skills, Prof. Harriss gingerly moved between topics as diverse as auditory cortex coding, hippocampal assembly dynamics and the mechanisms controlling sleep spindles.
Arguably, though, Prof. Harriss’ most recent work is the most exciting. His lab is leading the way in understanding how the animal’s state influences the ongoing sensory coding in different modalities.
You can also read more about the International Brain Laboratory (IBL), and their efforts to develop a standardized decision-making task for mice and perform high-density in vivo electrophysiological recordings.
For those who are interested in the ‘bottom line’ only, here are Prof. Harriss’ answers to the closing trio of questions:
1)Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?
Many, it is hard to say. (But, pointedly, Prof. Harriss does not regret learning biology later, when he was well into his academic career).
2) What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?
Hodgkin-Huxley (again!) When pressed, Prof. Harriss conceded: the Neuron Doctrine.
3) What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?
Papers coming out of the RNAseq revolution.
For those interested to know more about the way single cell RNAseq is changing the way we think about cell types, this paper may be a good place to start.