Computational Neurosciences Group

The Computational Neuroscience Group was formed in 1996 with the aim to employ applied mathematics to understand how the brain works. The brain is a highly complex piece of biological machinery, compartmentalized into several subsystems and made up of hundreds of billions of cells each one of which can perform complex computations on the basis of which it influences several other cells. The mechanisms that underlie neural processes (e.g., vision, learning, emotion, action, cognition) have been the object of intense enquiry for hundreds of years. Computational Neuroscientists strive to provide a description of the mechanisms that underlie such processes in the form of realistic models of the brain. Study of the properties and performance of these models allows one to evaluate the epistemic adequacy of available experimental data and the consistency of theoretical formulations. Results and conclusions obtained with the help of Computational Neurosciences provide a solid theoretical framework that causally connects neurophysiological events with Psychological-Neurological phenomena. They have implications for other sciences (e.g., Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychology, Biology) and their applications (e.g., robotics, neuromorphic electronic circuits) in the fields of image analysis, speech analysis, robot construction, etc. become more and more feasible.
The CN group places particular emphasis on efforts to understand how the brain generates and controls purposeful movements such as orienting the eyes and the head towards objects, reaching for them with an arm and grasping them with an appropriately configured hand. What are the areas of the brain that participate in these processes and how do they generate the signals that control these actions? How are movement variables represented in the spatial and temporal properties of populations of neurons? How do the laws of physics, the geometry of objects manipulated and their mechanical properties influence command signals? We explore these and other questions by studying the neural control of movements of the eyes, the arm and the hand. We collect experimental evidence concerning the movement related engagement of brain regions, the behavioral relevance of the discharge patterns of the neurons they contain, the connections they establish with other neurons and the psychophysics of movements evoked when units of the relevant neural networks are activated or lesioned. Finally, we use computer assisted neuronal modeling to evaluate the epistemic adequacy of the data and the consistency of the models they motivate.