Daniel Butts
Contact Info
Phone: 301.405.9890
Fax: 301.314.9358
Lab: 1207 Biosciences Research Building
Office: 1118 Biosciences Research Building
Daniel Butts
Associate Professor


  • BSCI 353: Principles of Neuroscience / NEUR 306: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • NACS 643: Computational Neuroscience (NACS 643)
  • NACS 728H: Neural Coding (intermittent)

Graduate Program Affiliations

  • Neuroscience & Cognitive Science (NACS)
  • BISI-Physiological Systems (PSYS)
  • BISI-Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, & Genomics (CBBG)
  • Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Scientific Computation (AMSC)
  • Biophysics (BIPH)

Research Interests 

As we look at the world around us, we have immediate access to the composition of the visual scene into objects, as well as our relationship in space to those objects.  This natural facility makes it possible to move though the world, catch or avoid moving objects, and base immediate decisions on a detailed understanding of the world around us.  Only secondarily might we note the particular color or composition of particular points in the visual scene, or the angle between two contours resulting from one object partially occluding another, or other low-level visual features of the scene.  Our brain processes vision much differently than computers do: a computer can easily store the hue and luminance of every pixel of an image, but – even with the best available software – it cannot parse an arbitrary natural image into its underlying elements.

However, in the absence of larger conceptual theories of how the brain processes information, established techniques have revolved around studying sensory systems’ abilities to represent information – rather than understand the computation that it performs.  In order to study computation in the brain, it is necessary to both establish larger theories about what is being computed, and design experiments to link these larger theories to observable physiology.  

Research in the NeuroTheory Lab is concerned both with developing larger theories of system-level function in the visual and other sensory systems, as well as working closely with neurophysiologists to design and perform experiments that can guide and/or validate these theories. As a necessary third goal, we also develop new analytical tools to facilitate these new experiments, as well as increase what can be learned from existing experiments. 


  • Ph.D., Physics, UC Berkeley, 2000
  • B.A., Oberlin College, 1994

All Publications

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Latest Publications via PubMed

Boyle J,Yau J,Slade JL,Butts DA,Zhang Y,Legesse TB,Cellini A,Clark K,Park JY,Wimbush J,Ambulos N Jr,Yin J,Hussain A,Onukwugha E,Knott CL,Wheeler DC,Barry KH
JAMA Netw Open. 2024 Jul 1;7(7):e2421903. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.21903. Epub 2024 Jul 1
Vafaii H,Yates JL,Butts DA
bioRxiv. 2023 Nov 5;:. pii: 2023.09.27.559646. doi: 10.1101/2023.09.27.559646. Epub 2023 Nov 5
Talluri BC,Kang I,Lazere A,Quinn KR,Kaliss N,Yates JL,Butts DA,Nienborg H
Nat Neurosci. 2023 Nov;26(11):1953-1959. doi: 10.1038/s41593-023-01459-5. Epub 2023 Oct 12
Yates JL,Coop SH,Sarch GH,Wu RJ,Butts DA,Rucci M,Mitchell JF
Nat Commun. 2023 Jun 20;14(1):3656. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38564-9. Epub 2023 Jun 20
Bartsch F,Cumming BG,Butts DA
J Neurophysiol. 2022 Aug 1;128(2):350-363. doi: 10.1152/jn.00416.2021. Epub 2022 Jun 29
Quinn KR,Seillier L,Butts DA,Nienborg H
Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 22;12(1):4473. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24629-0. Epub 2021 Jul 22
Whiteway MR,Butts DA
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2019 Oct;58:86-93. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2019.07.004. Epub 2019 Aug 16
Butts DA
Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2019 Sep 15;5:451-477. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-091718-014731. Epub 2019 Aug 6
Shi Q,Gupta P,Boukhvalova AK,Singer JH,Butts DA
Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 18;9(1):8713. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45048-8. Epub 2019 Jun 18
Liu J,Whiteway MR,Sheikhattar A,Butts DA,Babadi B,Kanold PO
Cell Rep. 2019 Apr 16;27(3):872-885.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.03.069. Epub
Whiteway MR,Socha K,Bonin V,Butts DA
Neuron Behav Data Anal Theory. 2019;3(1):. pii: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1801.08881v5.pdf. Epub 2019 Apr 27
Rourke OLC,Butts DA
PLoS One. 2017;12(12):e0188562. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188562. Epub 2017 Dec 7