Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Computational Neuroscience

From a general point of view, computational neuroscience can be defined as the development of methods from computer science and applied mathematics, to explore more technically and theoretically the relations between structures and functions in the brain [55], [44]. During the recent years this domain has gained an increasing interest in neuroscience and has become an essential tool for scientific developments in most fields in neuroscience, from the molecule to the system. In this view, all the objectives of our team can be described as possible progresses in computational neuroscience. Accordingly, it can be underlined that the systemic view that we promote can offer original contributions in the sense that, whereas most classical models in computational neuroscience focus on the better understanding of the structure/function relationship for isolated specific structures, we aim at exploring synergies between structures. Consequently, we target interfaces and interplay between heterogenous modes of computing, which is rarely addressed in classical computational neuroscience.

We also insist on another aspect of computational neuroscience which is, in our opinion, at the core of the involvement of computer scientists and mathematicians in the domain and on which we think we could particularly contribute. Indeed, we think that our primary abilities in numerical sciences imply that our developments are characterized above all by the effectiveness of the corresponding computations: We provide biologically inspired architectures with effective computational properties, such as robustness to noise, self-organization, on-line learning. We more generally underline the requirement that our models must also mimick biology through its most general law of homeostasis and self-adaptability in an unknown and changing environment. This means that we propose to numerically experiment such models and thus provide effective methods to falsify them.

Here, computational neuroscience means mimicking original computations made by the neuronal substratum and mastering their corresponding properties: computations are distributed and adaptive; they are performed without an homonculus or any central clock. Numerical schemes developed for distributed dynamical systems and algorithms elaborated for distributed computations are of central interest here [41], [49] and were the basis for several contributions in our group [54], [51], [56]. Ensuring such a rigor in the computations associated to our systemic and large scale approach is of central importance.

Equally important is the choice for the formalism of computation, extensively discussed in the connectionist domain. Spiking neurons are today widely recognized of central interest to study synchronization mechanisms and neuronal coupling at the microscopic level [42]; the associated formalism [47] can be possibly considered for local studies or for relating our results with this important domain in connectionism. Nevertheless, we remain mainly at the mesoscopic level of modeling, the level of the neuronal population, and consequently interested in the formalism developed for dynamic neural fields [39], that demonstrated a richness of behavior [43] adapted to the kind of phenomena we wish to manipulate at this level of description. Our group has a long experience in the study and adaptation of the properties of neural fields [51], [52] and their use for observing the emergence of typical cortical properties [46]. In the envisioned development of more complex architectures and interplay between structures, the exploration of mathematical properties such as stability and boundedness and the observation of emerging phenomena is one important objective. This objective is also associated with that of capitalizing our experience and promoting good practices in our software production. In summary, we think that this systemic approach also brings to computational neuroscience new case studies where heterogenous and adaptive models with various time scales and parameters have to be considered jointly to obtain a mastered substratum of computation. This is particularly critical for large scale deployments.