Workshop Metastable Dynamics of Neural Ensembles. Paris, 18th of July 2013

This workshop will take place this summer in Paris and will have the participation of five of the most recognized European experts in neural modelling. The context is the 23th conference on Computational Neuroscience; perhaps the most prestigious international meeting specialized in this topic, which alternates between Europe and America on a yearly basis (other conferences have mainly a national scope). For the workshop organization we are having the constant support and collaboration of Professor Hamid Bouchachia of BU.
A couple of weeks ago I was thinking on how we would fund the workshop expenses. I mentioned my concern about this to my colleague and director of our Smart Technology Center, Professor Bogdan Gabrys. He strongly encouraged me to apply to the internal European funding schemes. That was a good advice, and thanks to the EUNF funding scheme of BU now I am able to organize the workshop jointly with Professor Gustavo Deco and I am writing this. If you have a similar idea I think you really need to try, response in either way is very, very quick and just takes a short time to apply. You can find the documents in this same blog.
The topic of the workshop is metastable dynamics of neural ensembles. Metastability is a term used in several research areas such as statistical physics; loosely speaking refers to states which are stable but only for a limited time span. We will discuss about the following question: Is the traditional view on brain activity dynamics, in which the cognitive flow of information wanders through multiple stable states driven by task-dependent inputs, still a robust model? This picture has been recently challenged both empirically and from the modelling perspective.
For instance, in several contemporary models, intrinsic noise drives default transitions between cortical states, even in the absence of external stimuli. This model explains a range of puzzling phenomenology such as the intrinsic fluctuations of neural activity observed in functional magnetic resonance imaging when subjects are not performing a task (the so-called resting state). According to these models, cortical noise, commonly regarded as irrelevant, has a fundamental role [1, 2]. But there are completely different metaphors of transient brain dynamics where noise is not an essential ingredient: These models are rather based on complex dynamical objects which explain how metastable states could be mapped to cognitive entities even without the intervention of noise or external inputs [3].

In our woskshop, we will have the contribution of advocates of those two complementary perspectives, as well as a rich representation of different neural models and analyses of neural recordings during perceptual and cognitive processing [4].

[1] Deco, G.,and Jirsa, V. (2012). Ongoing cortical activity at rest: criticality, multistability and ghost attractors. J. Neurosci. 32, 3366–3375.
[2] Deco, G.,Jirsa, V. and McIntosh, A.R. (2011). Emerging concepts for the dynamical organization of restingstate activity in the brain. Nat.Rev. Neurosci. 12, 43–56.
[3] Rabinovich, M., Huerta, R., and Laurent, G. (2008). Transient dynamics for neural processing. Science 321, 48–50.
[4] Balaguer-Balllester, E. Lapish, C., Seamans, J. K. and Durstewitz, D. (2011). Attracting Dynamics of Frontal Cortex Ensembles during Memory-Guided Decision-Making. PLoS Comput Biol. 7(5): e100205.