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Event Detail (Archived)

Modeling the Emergence of Complex Cortical Structure from Simple Precursors in the Brain: Maps, Hierarchies, and Modules

Center for Studies in Physics and Biology Seminar Series

  • This event already took place in December 2023
  • Carson Family Auditorium (CRC)

Event Details

Special Seminar Series
Ila Fiete, Ph.D., professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Speaker bio(s)

Modular and hierarchical structures are ubiquitous in the brain. Two distinct hypotheses for such morphogenesis involve genetic specification (the positional information hypothesis) or spontaneous structure emergence from symmetry breaking (the pattern formation hypothesis). Indeed, there is rich evidence supporting both hypotheses in different systems, and more recently evidence that both systems might interact, for instance with genetic specification providing an initial but relatively low-information scaffold of positional guidance and pattern formation constructing sharper structures by bootstrapping from this guidance. In this talk, I will consider the emergence of two systems in the brain: the visual processing hierarchy with topographic structure, and a modular cognitive circuit consisting of functionally independent grid cell networks that compute spatial location from velocity cues as animals move and navigate the world. I will describe how simple activity-driven growth and competition rules can lead to the emergence of topographically ordered sensory processing hierarchies, and how genetically specified smooth gradients with purely local recurrent interactions on two scales can lead to global module emergence. In sum, simple growth rules, local interactions and smooth gradients can interact to produce rich emergent order on multiple scales in the form of maps, modules, and hierarchies.

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