Mark van Rossum 's Webpage


Reader at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation
Associate member of the Centre for Integrative Physiology and of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems
Contact me: mvanross <at>
Public PGP key
Skype: vrossum
phone: 44-131-6511211
Room 2.52, 10 Crichton Street,
Edinburgh EH8 9AB
Map and directions

Research Summary 

My research area is computational neuroscience. I use computational and mathematical techniques to understand the working of the brain. I hope that, like in physics, it will be possible to find simple underlying principles of the brain's functioning.
My particular interests are:

  • Synaptic plasticity:  Synaptic plasticity is thought to underly memory formation in the nervous system. I'm researching the computational consequences of realistic, spike timing dependent plasticity rules. In particular, the stability of memory and homeostasis have my current interest.
    One particular project is about synaptic tagging and capture.
  • Noise in neural systems: The nervous system has  extrinsic and intrinsic noise sources. From an engineering point of view this leads to the question, how does the nervous system deal with this noise. It turns out that the noise might be beneficial in some cases. More precisely, noise prevent synchronization (which reduces information content) and allows for fast and accurate propagation of signals.
  • The early visual system: The COLAMN project was a major UK project that tries to create a full computer model of primary visual cortex using detailed information about its anatomy and physiology, leading us towards the principles of neural computation and ultra efficient hardware implementations.
  • The retina: Together with Rob Smith, I made a model of the rod-rodbipolar synapse. This is the first synapse in the visual pathway and is important at very low light levels. In order to preserve signal quality, a special thresholding is required at this synapse. Some very good data on this system were recently measured. Together with Paul Clark I have extended the theory. We have also created a very realistic model of a ganglion cell with takes all known noise sources explicitly into account.
Former labs
Here you find the official webpages of the Neural Computation (NC) course (these pages are local access only).
The Lecture notes for Neural Computation are available here to all.

The Lecture notes Formal Modelling Cognitive Science are for a first year course.
They also serve as a maths refresher for NC students.

Old pages Distributed Computation for Cognition (DCFC) course. (03/04)


Currently I have no openings. A number of self-funded possiblities exist:
- Many funding councils (MRC, EPSRC) have options for fellowships, in particular for people wanting to shift careers.
- Also check this interdisplinary fellowship from HFSP
I'm happy to sponsor applications for such fellowships and in the past I have been successful doing so.


Students looking for a PhD position are  best served by our own Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). Non-UK students might check-out the DTC's sister programme, EuroSPIN, weblink
We are mainly looking for people with an excellent background in physics, mathematics, or computer science.

Here is a brief FAQ about switching to neural computation from physics or math (based on own experiences).
Please check the follow links for general policies and funding: Informatics , ANC.

List of possible projects (local access only)


Phd-Students (in our program all students have 2 supervisors)

Nathalie Dupuy
Sander Keemink
Angus Chadwick
Scott Lowe
Miha Pelko
Paolo Pugioni
Lukas Solanka
Rui Costa

MSc students/ UG students / visitors

Maia Janowitz (MSc, summer 2003) has worked on models of the role of excitability changes for learning (paper 24).
Paul Clark (UG 2004) has worked on information transmission in the retina (paper 23)
Hinnerk Feldwisch (summer 2004) has worked on a novel noise analysis method (paper under construnction).
Hannes Wiesner (MSc, summer 2005) worked on noise in retinal ganglion cells.
Lars Feuerbach (summer 05) worked on STDP models.
Georg Zeissner and Parnil Mhatre (MSc, summer 06) worked on contextual interaction in V1, and retinal noise, respectively.
Anna Lewis (summer 06) worked on STDP models.

Former members

Matthijs van der Meer (PhD 2007) worked on the head-direction system in rats (supervision with Emma Wood); now assistant professor.
Andrea Greve (PhD 2008) worked on ERPs and models related to memory and familiarity (supervision with David Donaldson); now research fellow at Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in Cardiff.
Guy Billings (PhD 2008) worked on STDP and stability; worked on cerebellum with Angus Silver at UCL.
Tim O'Leary (PhD 2009) worked on homeostasis (supervision with David Wyllie); now postdoc with Eve Marder, Brandeis.
Adam Barrett (postdoc 2007-2008) now research fellow in Sussex
Jesus Cortes (postdoc 2005-2008) Now professor at Ikerbasque
Steve Huang (PhD 2010) worked on head direction cells (supervision with Emma Wood).
Lawrence York (PhD 2011) worked on contrast dependent latencies (supervision with Mike Oram), worked with Zhiaoping Li (UCL)
Judith Law (postdoc 2010) worked on contextual interaction and synaptic depression.
Cian O'Donnell (PhD 2012) worked on stochastic ion channels, now postdoc with Terry Sejnowski
David Acunzo (PhD 2012) worked on ERP, emotion and data analysis, now at Ecole des Mines, Paris

Publications by year

Publications by topic

Computer code:

Code of finished projects can be found here. However, the code will be messy and largely uncommented.

Computer tips