Computational Modelling

Cognitive neuroscientists use computational modelling to help explain and understand the mechanisms of cognition. This means developing explicit mathematical descriptions of the processes that go on in the brain when we perceive, act, learn, think or remember.

These descriptions are often implemented in the form of computer programs, which translate abstract mathematics into concrete simulations of experiments. These help to explain results that have already seen, and can also predict the results of future experiments. Experimental predictions provide powerful tests of the models; by testing (and where necessary
rejecting) computational models we can develop at increasingly accurate descriptions of neural processes underlying cognition.

Computational models in neuroscience range from detailed descriptions of neurophysiological processes in single neurons to more abstract characterizations of the computation involved in high-level functions such as planning. By spanning this range, modelling plays an important role in connecting basic neuroscience and neurophysiology with neuroimaging, cognitive neuroscience and psychology. For cognitive neuroscience there is particular emphasis on understanding the way in which neurons act together to represent different kinds of information, and the way different forms of representation (perhaps located in different parts of the brain) can interact with one another to guide behaviour.

As well as conducting our own computational research we are fortunate to have close links with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit
(www.gatsby.ucl.ac.uk) which is housed in the same building.

Figure 1. Model of place cell firing based on geometric inputs

A) Each hypothetical "boundary vector cell" is sensitive to environmental barriers at a particular distance and compass direction.



B) Combinations of these inputs can explain the firing of a place cell across different environments.


C) The same combination of inputs accurately predicts the pattern of firing that will be seen in novel environments


This page last modified 17 November, 2011 by [ICN Web Team]


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