Section: Scientific Foundations
Computational neuroscience at the mesoscopic level: dynamic neural field
Our research activities in the domain of computational neurosciences are also interested in the understanding of higher brain functions using both computational models and robotics. These models are grounded on a computational paradigm that is directly inspired by several brain studies converging on a distributed, asynchronous, numerical and adaptive processing of information and the continuum neural field theory (CNFT) provides the theoretical framework to design models of population of neurons.
This mesoscopic approach underlines that the number of neurons is very high, even in a small part of tissue, and proposes to study neuronal models in a continuum limit where space is continuous and main variables correspond to synaptic activity or firing rates in population of neurons. This formalism is particularly interesting because the dynamic behavior of a large piece of neuronal tissue can be studied with differential equations that can integrate spatial (lateral connectivity) and temporal (speed of propagation) characteristics and display such interesting behavior as pattern formation, travelling waves, bumps, etc.
The main cognitive tasks we are currently interested in are related to the autonomous navigation of a robot in an unknown environment (perception, sensorimotor coordination, planning). The corresponding neuronal structures we are modeling are part of the cortex (perceptive, associative, frontal maps) and the limbic system (hippocampus, amygdala, basal ganglia). Corresponding models of these neuronal structures are defined at the level of the population of neurons and functioning and learning rules are built from neuroscience data to emulate the corresponding information processing (filtering in perceptive maps, multimodal association in associative maps, temporal organization of behavior in frontal maps, episodic memory in hippocampus, emotional conditioning in amygdala, selection of action in basal ganglia). Our goal is to iteratively refine these models, implement them on autonomous robots and make them cooperate and exchange information, toward a completely adaptive, integrated and autonomous behavior.