University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Bartlett W. Mel

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Member, Neuroscience Graduate Program

Research Topics

  1. Using computer models to study brain function at single cell and systems levels.
  2. Role of active dendritic processing in the sensory and memory-related functions of pyramidal neurons.
  3. Neuromorphic models of visual cortex; neurally-inspired approaches to image processing problems.

Research Overview

My research interests lie in the areas of Computational Neuroscience and Neural Engineering. Most of the work in my lab involves the use of computer models to study brain function. Some of our goals are of a primarily scientific nature. For example, we use detailed biophysiical modeling studies to study synaptic integration in active dendritic trees, and explore how dendritic trees could contribute to the sensory and memory-related functions of nerve cells. To do this work, we use simulation packages such as NEURON and a variety of custom software developed by members of the lab.

Some of our work combines scientific and engineering goals. For example, we are interested in the massively parallel computations carried out in the visual cortex which allow us to recognize objects with a speed, accuracy, and robustness that are far beyond the technical state of the art. How does this amazing neural technology work? We have developed a number of models of this process, and have applied them to various types of visual recognition problems. In one of our ongoing projects, we are attempting to understand the mechanisms used by the brain to learn which features are best for recognizing objects and scenes. Our hope is to someday be able to construct high performance artificial vision systems which could be used to power intelligent machines.

Contact Information

Web Site:
Laboratory for Neural Computation
Mailing Address:
University of Southern California
Hedco Neursocience Bldg, Mail Code 2520
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Office Location:
103 Hedco Neuroscience, UPC
Office Phone:
(213) 740-0334
Lab Location:
B1 Hedco Neuroscience, UPC
Lab Phone:
(213) 740-3397
(213) 740-1470


  • B.S. in EECS, University of California, Berkeley, 1982.
  • Ph.D. in Computer Science, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1989.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1989-1994.

Research Images

Selected Publications

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Kwon M., Ramachandra C., Satgunam, P., Mel B.W., Peli, E. & Tjan B. (2012). Contour enhancement benefits older adults with simulated central field loss. Optom Vis Sci. 89(9):1374-84 -PubMed -Link

Behabadi, B.F., Polsky, A., Jadi, M., Schiller, J. & Mel, B.W. (2012). Location-dependent excitatory synaptic interactions in pyramidal neuron dendrites. PLoS Comput Biol 8(7): e1002599. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002599. -PubMed -Link

Jadi, M., Polsky, A., Schiller, J. & Mel, B.W. (2012). Location-Dependent Effects of Inhibition on Local Spiking in Pyramidal Neuron Dendrites. PLoS Comput Biol 8(6): e1002550. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002550 -PubMed -Link

Wu XE, Mel BW. (2009) Capacity-enhacing synaptic learning rules in a medial temporal lobe online learning model.  Neuron, 62(1):31-41. -PubMed -Link

Zhou C & Mel, B.W. (2008) Cue combination and color edge detection in natural scenes. Journal of Vision, 8(4):1-25. -PubMed -Link

Chklovskii DB, Mel BW, Svoboda K. (2004) Cortical rewiring and information storage. Nature. 2004 Oct 14;431(7010):782-8. -PubMed -Link

Poirazi, P. Brannon, T. & Mel, B.W. (2003) Pyramidal Neuron as 2-Layer Neural Network. Neuron, 37, 989-999. -PubMed -Link

Poirazi, P. & Mel, B.W. (2001) Impact of active dendrites and structural plasticity on the memory capacity of neural tissue. Neuron, 29, 779-796. -PubMed -Link

Polsky A, Mel BW & Schiler J. (2004) Computational subunits in thin dendrites of pyramidal cells. Nature Neuroscience 7(6):621-627. -PubMed -Link

Mel BW. (1997). SEEMORE: Combining color, shape, and texture histogramming in a neurally-inspired approach to visual object recognition. Neural Computation, 9, 777-804. -PubMed -Link