Mark E. Nelson



  • 5251 Beckman Institute
  • 405 North Mathews Avenue
  • Urbana, Illinois 61801


Mark Nelson received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1983. He is a professor in the University of Illinois Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology and a full-time faculty member in the Beckman Institute NeuroTech group. He is also a member of the Neuroscience program, the Biophysics & Computational Biology program and the Bioengineering program. His fields of professional interest are computational neuroscience, neural coding, and biological signal processing.


James E. Heath Award for Excellence in Teaching (2001); Beckman Fellow, U of I Center for Advanced Study (1993); William Evans Fellow (1990).


Research in the Nelson laboratory is focused on understanding how the nervous system acquires, encodes and processes sensory information for guiding behavior in complex environments. The group seeks to identify general neural mechanisms and computational principles involved in active sensory acquisition, with an emphasis on systems-level integration of multiple cooperative mechanisms, including active sensor positioning, task-specific adaptive filtering, generation and subtraction of sensory expectation, and mechanisms of selective attention. The Nelson laboratory studies these phenomena in the electrosensory of weakly electric fish using behavioral, neurophysiological, and computational methods. These approaches are combined to help understand the dynamic interactions between the brain, the body, and the environment during sensory acquisition tasks. Insights from neurobiology are being applied to the design of active sensing systems for biologically inspired robots.


  • 2016
    • Yoon, H.; Shiftehfar, R.; Cho, S.; Spencer, B. F.; Nelson, M. E.; Agha, G., Victim Localization and Assessment System for Emergency Responders. Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering 2016, 30, (2).
  • 2015
    • Yoon, H.; Shiftehfar, R.; Cho, S.; Spencer, B. F.; Nelson, M. E.; Agha, G., Victim Localization and Assessment System for Emergency Responders. Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering 2015, DOI:10.1061/(ASCE)CP.1943-5487.0000483.

  • 2013
    • Jo, H.; Sim, S. H.; Tatkowski, A.; Spencer, B. F.; Nelson, M. E., Feasibility of Displacement Monitoring Using Low-Cost Gps Receivers. Neurophysiology 2013, 111, (1), 197-207, DOI: 10.1002/stc.1532.

  • 2011
    • Nelson, M. E., Electrophysiological models of neural processing. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Systems Biology and Medicine 2011, 3, (1), 74-92

    • Nelson, M. E., Electric Fish. Current Biology 2011, 21, (14), R528-R529.

    • Nelson, M. E., Biological Smart Sensing Strategies in Weakly Electric Fish. Smart Structures and Systems 2011, 8, (1), 107-117.

  • 2009
    • Nelson, M. E., Smart Sensing Strategies: Insights from a Biologically Active Sensing System. Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Advanced Smart Materials and Smart Structures Technology, Boston, MA, 2009.

  • 2008
    • Nelson, M. E., Commentary: Electro-, loco-, and otromotor components of electric fish behaviour Introductory Note. Journal of Physiology-Paris 2008, 102, (4-6), 159-161.

  • 2007
    • Snyder, J. B.; Nelson, M. E.; Burdick, J. W.; Maclver, M. A., Omnidirectional sensory and motor volumes in electric fish. PLoS Biology 2007, 5, (11), 2671-2683.

  • 2006
    • Ludtke, N.; Nelson, M. E., Short-term synaptic plasticity can enhance weak signal delectability in nonrenewal spike trains. Neural Computation 2006, 18, (12), 2879-2916.

    • Nelson, M.E.; MacIver, M.A. Sensory acquisition in active sensing systems. J. Comp. Physiol. 2006. A 192, 573-586.

  • 2005
    • Chen, L; House, J. H.; Krahe, R.; Nelson, M. E., Modeling signal and background components of electrosensory scenes. J. Comp. Physiol. 2005, A 191, 331-345.

    • Nelson, M. E., Electrophysiological Models. In Databasing the Brain: From Data to Knowledge; Koslow, S.; Subramaniam, S., Eds.; Wiley: New York, 2005; pp. 285-301.

    • Nelson, M. E., Target Detection, Image Analysis and Modeling. In Electroreception (Springer Handbook of Auditory Research); Bullock, T.H.; Hopkins, C.D.; Popper, A.N.; Fay, R.R., Eds.; Springer: New York, 2005; pp. 290-317.

  • 2002
    • Brandman, R. and Nelson, M.E. (2002), "A Simple Model of Long-term Spike Train Regularization," Neural Computation, 14, pp. 1575-1597.

    • Coombs, S., New, J.G., and Nelson, M.E. (2002), "Information-processing Demands in Electrosensory and Mechanosensory Lateral Line Systems," Journal of Physiology (Paris), 96, pp. 341-354.


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