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Models of Neural Development


Topographic projections between neural sheets, orientation columns and ocular dominance columns in early visual areas have served as paradigmatic model systems for understanding the mechanisms underlying neural plasticity and development. Using mathematical models and computer simulations we investigated how activity driven and intrinsic processes interact in order to generate the observed anatomical connectivity patterns and response properties of neurons. We describe the development of those patterns as a goal-oriented (in the sense of underlying cost-functions) self-organizing process, which extracts information from the environment and imprints this knowledge into neural circuits. Particular emphasis was given to competitive networks including the Self-Organizing Map, which are known to trade smoothness vs. completeness of representations and which lead to patterns which fit experimental data surprisingly well.The mathematical properties of self-organizing maps were also analysed in a machine learning context. For details see "Research" page "Learning Vector Quantization and Self-organizing Maps"

Acknowledgements: Research was funded by BMBF, DFG, and the Technische Universität Berlin.

Selected Publications:

Models of Orientation and Ocular Dominance Columns in the Visual Cortex: A Critical Comparison
Citation key Erwin1995a
Author Erwin, E. and Obermayer, K. and Schulten, K.
Pages 425 – 468
Year 1995
Journal Neural Computation
Volume 7
Abstract Orientation and ocular dominance maps in the primary visual cortex of mammals are among the most thoroughly investigated of the patterns in the cerebral cortex. A considerable amount of work has been dedicated to unraveling both their detailed structure and the neural mechanisms that underlie their formation and development. Many schemes have been proposed, some of which are in competition. Some models focus on development of receptive fields while others focus on the structure of cortical maps, i.e., the arrangement of receptive field properties across the cortex. Each model used different means to determine its success at reproducing experimental map patterns, often relying principally on visual comparison. Experimental data are becoming available that allow a more careful evaluation of models. In this contribution more than 10 of the most prominent models of cortical map formation and structure are critically evaluated and compared with the most recent experimental findings from macaque striate cortex. Comparisons are based on properties of the predicted or measured cortical map patterns. We introduce several new measures for comparing experimental and model map data that reveal important differences between models. We expect that the use of these measures will improve current models by helping determine parameters to match model maps to experimental data now becoming available from a variety of species. Our study reveals that (1) despite apparent differences, many models are based on similar principles and consequently make similar predictions, (2) several models produce orientation map patterns that are not consistent with the experimental data from macaques, regardless of the plausibility of the models\' suggested physiological implementations, and (3) no models have yet fully accounted for both the local and the global relationships between orientation and ocular dominance map patterns.
Bibtex Type of Publication Selected:development
Link to publication Link to original publication Download Bibtex entry

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