Willy Wong 

A.R.C.T., B.Sc. (Toronto), M.Sc. (Toronto), Ph.D. (Toronto)

Professor, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering



Edward S. Rogers Sr. Dept. of

Electrical and Computer Engineering

University of Toronto 

10 King's College Rd. 

Toronto, Ontario 



E-mail me at: willy [dot] wong [at] utoronto [dot] ca 

Office: BA7110 (Bahen) 

(Click here for map and look for Bahen near St. George and College.)

Cross appointments (status only):

- Institute of Biomedical Engineering 

- Collaborative Program in Neuroscience 

Visiting positions:

Kyushu University, ATR Advanced Telecommunications Research, IPO Eindhoven University of Technology, Cambridge University, Toyama Prefectural University

Research interests:

My research interest lies in theoretical neuroscience/neuroengineering and its application to the understanding brain mechanism and function. I apply mathematics and physics to the modelling of biological systems. Some of my work has application to the assessment of neurological disease and the development of medical assistive devices.

What keeps me up at night:

1. This is a preprint highlighting a research question I have been working on for the past 30 years since I was an undergraduate student. This work deals with the principles that underlie sensory function. The idea is to develop a fully detailed theory about how the sensory system processes information. At the heart of this approach is a single equation of information which allows us to calculate the sensory response measured from a neuron to any time-varying sensory intensity input. You can read it here. Warning: Difficult read

2. The theory also predicts a new, as of yet undiscovered property of sensory adaptation! Nobel Laureate Lord Adrian discovered the all-or-nothing property of the nervous system almost a hundred years ago. During that time, there have been countless studies (including measurements by Adrian himself) that have measured sensory adaptation -- adaptation governs how sensory signals gradually fade away with time (think adapting to the sweetness of juice). Could Adrian's studies have missed a fundamental observation underlying neural adaptation? My theory predicts that there exists a simple and elegant relationship governing the spontaneous, peak and subsequent steady-state activity: that the steady-state activity is the geometric mean of the spontaneous and peak activities. This simple equation works as well in proprioception and touch (in two of Adrian's original recordings) as it does in taste and smell. It work as well in fish as it does in reptiles and mammals, in fibres with low and high spontaneous activity. It is likely a universal equation. This result will likely change the entire course of neuroscience as it shows, in ways that the Hodgkin-Huxley equation cannot do easily, that a simple, universal mathematical structure underlies the functioning of the nervous system. You can read it here. There is also a news release concerning the discovery here.

3. I have also been extending #2 and deriving what is likely the very first mathematical inequality governing neural activity. A powerful inequality that defines the range over which the neural response must lie. This work is described here. Related to this, do you like math problems? If so, try proving the following

4. A more fundamental problem. Yet this is another question I have struggled with since I was an undergrad student and am still thinking about it to this day. I am interested in the limits of information that can be acquired by sensory systems. Are there information cycles governing sensory systems in the same way that Clausius' theorem governs the conversion of heat to work in an engine? Stay tuned for a preprint, or contact me for more details.

This whole idea is not as strange as it sounds. I highly recommend that you watch physicist Jim Al-Khalili's wonderful BBC documentary concerning entropy (part 1) and information (part 2) where he traces the evolution of these ideas from the study of heat and work in the 19th century, to the molecular understanding of order and disorder, and its later applications to communications and even computing! My work can be seen as the next step in this evolution: Does biological communication also have its roots in the physics of entropy and information?

We are also engaged in research with practical implications: Here is one publication applying our skills to help design retinal implants for those suffering from vision loss. My group also works on early detection and screening of glaucoma (with Moshe Eizeman), as well as hearing loss (with Shuji Mori).

What we are also known for: My students and I also had a small part in helping Canada during the first wave of the SARS-CoV-1 pandemic in March 2020. Read about it here.

Keywords: Theoretical and computational neuroscience/engineering, information theory, psychophysics, acoustics

Publications: You can find a list of my publications here.


My work has been supported by a number of agencies including Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and Advanced Telecommunications Research (ATR).


CSC 190 (Computer Algorithms, Data Structures and Languages)

ECE 212 (Circuit Analysis)

ECE 216 (Signals and Systems)

ECE 221 (Electric and Magnetic Fields)

ECE 302 (Probability and Applications)

ECE 446 (Sensory Communication)

ECE 1774 (Sensory Cybernetics)

PHY 335 (Quantum Mechanics for ECE)

Useful and fun stuff:

See here.