SFI Seminar: Darwinian Neurodynamics

Harold de Vladar
Parmenides Foundation
SFI News:

The Santa Fe Institute presents a seminar on Darwinian Neurodynamics by Harold de Vladar at 12:15 p.m., Tuesday in the Collins Conference Room in Santa Fe.

Abstract: Theoretical models of neuronal function consider different mechanisms through which networks learn, classify and discern inputs. A central focus of these models is to understand how associations are established amongst neurons, in order to predict spiking patterns that are compatible with empirical observations.

Although these models have led to major insights and advances, they still do not account for the astonishing velocity with which the brain solves certain problems and what lays behind its creativity, amongst others features. We examine two important components that may crucially aid comprehensive understanding of said neurodynamical processes.

First, we argue that once presented with a problem, different putative solutions are generated in parallel by different groups or local neuronal complexes, with the subsequent stabilization and spread of the best solutions. Using mathematical models we show that this mechanism accelerates finding the right solutions. This formalism is analogous to standard replicator-mutator models of evolution where mutation is analogous to the probability of neuron state switching (on/off).

Although in evolution mutation rates are constant, we show that neuronal switching probability is determined by neuronal activity and their associative weights, described by the network of synaptic connections.

The second factor that we propose is structural synaptic plasticity, i.e. the making of new and disbanding of old synapses, which we incorporate as a dynamical reorganization of synaptic connections. We show that Hebbian learning alone does not suffice to reach optimal solutions. However, combining it with parallel evaluation and structural plasticity opens up possibilities for efficient problem solving.

In the resulting networks, topologies converge to subsets of fully connected components. Imposing costs on synapses reduces the connectivity, although the number of connected components remains robust. The average lifetime of synapses is longer for connections that are established early, and diminishes with synaptic cost.

SFI Host: Michael Lachmann

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The Santa Fe Institute is a nonprofit research center located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its scientists collaborate across disciplines to understand the complex systems that underlie critical questions for science and humanity. The Institute is supported by philanthropic individuals and foundations, forward-thinking partner companies, and government science agencies.