Davidson Fellows - 2013 Fellow Jiayi Peng


Jiayi Peng

$10,000 Scholarship Recipient

Age: 18
Chappaqua, NY
Category: Science
Project Title: “A Cellular Automaton Model for Critical Dynamics in Neuronal Networks”______ _______ ________ ____ _______


To better understand the complexity of the brain, Jiayi proposed a novel computer model that simulates the neural network. Her model utilizes a remarkably simple feedback mechanism to show how neural networks can self-organize into a critical state. This feedback mechanism is comprised of two time scales of neural plasticity that govern the strength of connectivity between neurons. Since critical dynamics are often missing from brains with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, her contribution sheds new light onto these neurological conditions and may help find a treatment for these disorders.

The model presented here demonstrates a possible way of how the brain can remain at criticality after perturbations through cooperation between short-term plasticity and long-term metaplasticity. The results will be useful to other scientists in future studies on finding the types of mechanisms that could be responsible for driving the brain to the critical point and maintaining it there. An understanding of these mechanisms would be especially useful, as evidence is beginning to accumulate that several neuropathologies are associated with a failure to operate at the critical point.

Jiayi is a freshman at Harvard College and hopes to become a researcher or professor in a field related to mathematics and/or physics. She has participated in numerous math and science clubs and competitions, both individual and collaborative, winning regional, state and national awards. Jiayi was an editor on her school newspaper and plays both piano and violin.

Click the links below to view hi-res photos of Jiayi:

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Click here to view the full listing of the 2013 Davidson Fellows. 
Click here to view Jiayi's press release.

For all media inquiries, please contact DavidsonFellowsMedia@davidsongifted.org

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