top of page


The Western Institute for Advanced Study works with partners to host symposiums, scientific workshops, and similar events across the country. These events bring together scientists and supporters to progress our fundamental research program and develop impactful applications.


February 2024: Another paper summarizing the results of our first Grand Challenge has been published, in the journal Frontiers in Cognition! This paper describes how a cortical neural network encodes the state of its surrounding environment, through a non-deterministic computational process, by thermodynamically favoring the selection of an optimal system state from a large probability distribution. Each iterative computational cycle results in a decision – to engage in further exploration, in order to acquire more predictive value, or to exploit the predictive value already gained. Critically, this model demonstrates that fundamental thermodynamic constraints provide a limit on the predictive capacity of the system, with the amount of energy entering the system restricting both the amount of information generated and the amount of predictive value extracted.
Link to the open-access article: E.A. Stoll (2024) Front Cogn 2: 1171273
January 2024: A new paper summarizing the results of our first Grand Challenge has been published in Physical Biology! This paper presents a model of thermodynamic computation in cortical neural networks, with information compression having a physical effect on the voltage of the neuronal membrane, as free energy is converted into the cellular work of maintaining the membrane potential. This paper shows that the extraordinary energy efficiency of the brain is consistent with an inherently non-deterministic, rather than classical, computation.
Link to the open-access article: E.A. Stoll (2024) Phys Biol 21(1): 016003
March 2023: Over the past year, the journal Cognitive Science hosted a special initiative entitled Progress and Puzzles of Cognitive Science. The purpose of this initiative was to publish concise and provocative proposals to reframe the past and conceptualize the future of this discipline. The accepted papers represented viewpoints of the widest multidisciplinary relevance, which were likely to have the broadest impact on the field. The lead investigator on our first Grand Challenge was invited to present her view on this platform. Read Izi's paper on the emerging connections between consciousness, exascale computational power, probabilistic outcomes, and energy efficiency here: E.A. Stoll (2023) Cogn Sci 47: 13272



The Western Institute for Advanced Study received sponsorship from Creative Ventures, Flagstar Bank, Moss Adams, and Benchmark Wines to hold its first symposium and fundraising dinner, on Sunday, December 10, 2023 in San Francisco. We were so pleased to celebrate the success of our first Grand Challenge! This event was followed by a full-day scientific workshop to develop the next stage of our research program.


Yasunori Nomura

Director of The Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, University of California

                speaking on the role of theory and experiment in driving scientific progress

Izi Stoll

Scientific Director of The Western Institute for Advanced Study

                speaking on consciousness, computation, and information processing

David Redish

Distinguished McKnight Professor of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota

                speaking on how we perceive the world and make decisions


Amy Wachholtz

Program Director in Clinical Psychology, University of Colorado

                speaking on the role of neuroscientific research in improving mental health outcomes

Contact us to receive information about sponsoring a future Grand Challenge. We would be thrilled to work with you on developing a basic research program or a practical application in an emerging industry.
bottom of page