Pentti Kanerva (UC Berkeley)
The cerebellum contains over half the neurons in the brain (the granule cells), as well as neurons with the largest number of modifiable synapses (the Purkinje cells). More than a century ago Santiago Ramon y Cajal mapped its circuits and left us with the puzzle of interpreting its function and operation. 70 years later David Marr (1969) and James Albus (1972) interpreted it as a neural associative memory. I will discuss this interpretation and its fit into a theory of computing with high-dimensional vectors. It turns out that computing with vectors resembles computing with numbers. Both need a large memory, to provide ready access to a lifetime's worth of information. I will also discuss the need to understand the cerebellum's connections to the rest of the nervous system in light of the theory of computing with vectors.