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Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science and Technology

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CELEST: A Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science, and Technology  (Trustees of Boston University)

Research Focus

Researchers at the Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science and Technology (CELEST) study and model the brain processes that govern learning, and how these processes influence behavior in humans, animals, and artificial adaptive agents. These processes include dynamic coding, processing bottlenecks, functional connections, and neural plasticity, all of which influence how we learn, and what information we learn.

The center’s core scientific objective is to understand how the whole brain learns; i.e., how it adapts as an integrated system to enable intelligent autonomous behavior. Its core technology objective is to develop new brain-inspired technologies. Towards these ends it strategically sponsors collaborations among experimentalists, modelers, and engineers.

Research Outcomes

CELEST is helping to develop a new generation of experimentally tested models that explain how brains and machines can learn to plan, explore, communicate and remember, and it is transitioning these insights to technological applications such as “smart” prostheses and computers that think like humans. 

In one project, researchers teamed with a computer company to develop a system called a brain-computer interface that translates the brain signals of paralyzed people into computer commands. A specialized computer allows the user to choose words or sentences that are then played over computer speakers. This helps patients with locked-in syndrome, who cannot move or speak because of their paralysis, to communicate with those around them or control devices (such as a computer or a wheelchair) through their brain signals.

In another project, researchers developed 3D viewing software designed to help radiologists find early signs of lung cancer more efficiently and reliably.

Education & Outreach

CELEST transfers the results of basic research on learning for instruction of undergraduate and graduate students through the development of courses and materials for the new undergraduate neuroscience major at Boston University, through electronic dissemination on the CELEST web site, and through workshops on the computational neuroscience of learning. A number of CELEST programs are geared to increase opportunities for groups underrepresented in science through participation in its innovative curriculum and research initiatives. These educational and diversity efforts are supported through graduate fellowships, summer internships for faculty from minority-serving institutions, and a ten-week summer program for undergraduates from underrepresented groups to work in CELEST faculty laboratories and be introduced to the interplay of modeling, experimental, and technological aspects of neuroscience.

The CELEST Catalyst works to facilitate collaborations between academic research and industry partners.

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  • two students in front of computer
Aisha Sohail and Heather Ames run simulations of a visual system.
Massimiliano Versace, CELEST, Boston University