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April 30, 2010

Efficient Physical Embedding of Topologically Complex Information Processing Networks in Brains and Computer Circuits

Danielle S. Bassett, Daniel L. Greenfield, Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Daniel R. Weinberger, Simon W. Moore, Edward T. Bullmore published an article last week in PLoS Computational Biology:

ABSTRACT: Nervous systems are information processing networks that evolved by natural selection, whereas very large scale integrated (VLSI) computer circuits have evolved by commercially driven technology development. Here we follow historic intuition that all physical information processing systems will share key organizational properties, such as modularity, that generally confer adaptivity of function. It has long been observed that modular VLSI circuits demonstrate an isometric scaling relationship between the number of processing elements and the number of connections, known as Rent's rule, which is related to the dimensionality of the circuit's interconnect topology and its logical capacity. We show that human brain structural networks, and the nervous system of the nematode C. elegans, also obey Rent's rule, and exhibit some degree of hierarchical modularity. We further show that the estimated Rent exponent of human brain networks, derived from MRI data, can explain the allometric scaling relations between gray and white matter volumes across a wide range of mammalian species, again suggesting that these principles of nervous system design are highly conserved. For each of these fractal modular networks, the dimensionality of the interconnect topology was greater than the 2 or 3 Euclidean dimensions of the space in which it was embedded. This relatively high complexity entailed extra cost in physical wiring: although all networks were economically or cost-efficiently wired they did not strictly minimize wiring costs. Artificial and biological information processing systems both may evolve to optimize a trade-off between physical cost and topological complexity, resulting in the emergence of homologous principles of economical, fractal and modular design across many different kinds of nervous and computational networks.

The Brain's Router: A Cortical Network Model of Serial Processing in the Primate Brain

Ariel Zylberberg, Diego Fernández Slezak, Pieter R. Roelfsema, Stanislas Dehaene, Mariano Sigman published a wonderful article in PLoS Computational Biology yesterday.

ABSTRACT: The human brain efficiently solves certain operations such as object recognition and categorization through a massively parallel network of dedicated processors. However, human cognition also relies on the ability to perform an arbitrarily large set of tasks by flexibly recombining different processors into a novel chain. This flexibility comes at the cost of a severe slowing down and a seriality of operations (100–500 ms per step). A limit on parallel processing is demonstrated in experimental setups such as the psychological refractory period (PRP) and the attentional blink (AB) in which the processing of an element either significantly delays (PRP) or impedes conscious access (AB) of a second, rapidly presented element. Here we present a spiking-neuron implementation of a cognitive architecture where a large number of local parallel processors assemble together to produce goal-driven behavior. The precise mapping of incoming sensory stimuli onto motor representations relies on a “router” network capable of flexibly interconnecting processors and rapidly changing its configuration from one task to another. Simulations show that, when presented with dual-task stimuli, the network exhibits parallel processing at peripheral sensory levels, a memory buffer capable of keeping the result of sensory processing on hold, and a slow serial performance at the router stage, resulting in a performance bottleneck. The network captures the detailed dynamics of human behavior during dual-task-performance, including both mean RTs and RT distributions, and establishes concrete predictions on neuronal dynamics during dual-task experiments in humans and non-human primates.

April 14, 2010

Plenary Talk at "Toward a Science of Consciousness"

Just delivered a Plenary Talk at "Toward a Science of Consciousness" conference at Tucson, AZ.