Advisory Board

Professor Christof Koch

Christof Koch, Ph.D. is Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology, California Institute of Technology.
Born in the American Midwest (Kansas City), Christof grew up in Amsterdam/Holland, Bonn/Germany, Ottawa/Canada, and Rabat/Marocco where he graduated from the Lycée Descartes with a French Baccalaurèet (Section C) in 1974.
He studied Physics and Philosophy in Tübingen, Germany. He earned Master of Physics in 1980 (writing his Master Thesis under Professor Mario Del Cin) and his Ph.D. from the Max-Planck-Institut for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in 1982. His eye-catching thesis title was Nonlinear information processing in dendritic trees of arbitrary geometry. He had two Doctor-Fathers (thesis advisors), Professor Valentin Braitenberg and Professor Tomaso (Tommy) Poggio.
Subsequently, Christof followed Tommy to Boston, where he spent four years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT.
In the fall of 1986, he joined the California Institute of Technology’s newly started Computation and Neural Systems Ph.D. program as an Assistant Professor. Caltech, in beautiful Southern California, is an oasis, an ivory-tower dedicated to educating the best and brightest in the way of science and the pursuit of the truth.
Over twenty years later, he is still at Caltech, now as the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology. He is the head of K-Lab and is a faculty member of the Division of Biology and the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. He was a visiting Professor at the Institute for Neuroinformatics at the ETH and the University of Zürich, Switzerland, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering at Korea University in Seoul, Korea.
Christof has authored two books. One is for a general audience entitled The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. This book describes a general neurobiological framework for discovering how consciousness, the subjective mind, arises out of the flickering interactions among the neurons of the cerebral cortex and related brain areas. It is based on collaborative work with Francis Crick from 1990 to 2004. The second entitled Biophysics of Computation: Information Processing in Single Neurons analyzes how individual nerve cells process information and details the biophysical mechanisms underlying computation at the level of synapses, channels, and membranes. Together with his good friend Idan Segev, he coedited Methods in Neuronal Modeling which is now in its second edition.
Christof edited Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain and Visual Attention and Cortical Circuits. He has authored or coauthored with members of his laboratory or with other colleagues more than 180 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and more than 140 book and conference chapters. His patents include Circuit for detecting discontinuities in light intensity including two independent resistive networks, Object-background discrimination using analog VLSI circuit, “Resistive fuse” analog hardware for detecting discontinuities in early vision system, and Pulse domain neuromorphic integrated circuit for computing motion.
Watch Conversations with History: Christof Koch, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, Consciousness – Christof Koch, and Expand Your Mind: Getting a Grasp on Consciousness.