<figcaption> Credit: © 2007 Greg Kessler Photography</figcaption>
Credit: © 2007 Greg Kessler Photography

The lone distraction in Liam Paninski's austere New York City office is an acoustic guitar lying strings up on his desk. A computer idles beside the instrument, and empty bookshelves line the room that the soft-spoken Columbia University professor of theoretical neuroscience jokingly calls his "lab."

Paninski's decor parallels his approach to neuroscience. The statistical models and computational analyses he's been developing are meant to clarify the voluminous clutter of data pouring in from increasingly sophisticated recording equipment. He's been working to streamline the cacophony.

"This is really becoming a huge problem in neuroscience," says Paninski. "There are lots of [labs] where people have collected gobs of data, and we really need to develop tools that can handle that." Developing these tools has been Paninski's single-minded focus, fostered since he was an undergraduate in John Donoghue's lab at Brown University.

Nicholas Hatsopoulos, a postdoc...

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