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Peter Dayan

Fellow of the Royal Society Co-recipient of the Brain Prize in 2017

Peter Dayan studied Mathematics at Cambridge University, did his PhD in Computational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh with David Willshaw, and postdocs with Terry Sejnowski at the Salk Institute and Geoff Hinton at the University of Toronto. After three years as an assistant professor at MIT, he helped found the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at UCL in 1998. He was Director of the Unit from 2002-2017, and is currently on sabbatical at Uber AI Labs. He won the Rumelhart Prize in 2012, and was a co-recipient of the Brain Prize in 2017. He has been recently elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018.


Dayan's interests centre on mathematical and computational models of neural processing, with a particular emphasis on representation, learning and decision making. His recent work has concentrated on the multifarious mechanisms by which humans and other animals approximately maximize reward and minimize punishment. The systems involved apparently recapitulate algorithms popular in artificial intelligence; this connection offers a fecund route for understanding their normal behaviour and their characteristic dysfunctions in neurological and psychiatric disease.