Neuromodulation: understanding networks embedded in space and time
A workshop at ECAL 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal. 10 September 2007
Neuromodulation occurs when neurons influence each other via processes other than synaptic neurotransmission. Neuromodulatory gases and neurohormones, for instance, are synthesized by neurons and diffuse across volumes of neural tissue, altering the functionality of neurons that they impinge upon. As such, neuromodulatory processes are proper to a spatio-temporal domain that is fundamentally distinct from the network paradigm that has dominated neuroscience and the study of artificial neural networks. A theoretical framework that combines neurotransmission and neuromodulation would represent a qualitative shift in the way that we understand the adaptive dynamics of neural systems, and would also have more general implications for how we understand processes on a much wider class of complex embedded networks (e.g., cellular, social, technological, and economic systems).
Neuromodulation is attracting growing interest in both neuroscience and computer science but this has yet to result in an established theoretical framework---indeed, there is little consensus on neuromodulation beyond the assertion that it is not synaptic/electrical interaction. Similarly, there is no standard model for incorporating a neuromodulatory component within a standard neural network model. However, empirical and theoretical research within both fields has demonstrated that neuromodulation may significantly influence processing power, functionality, and perhaps evolvability.
As such, the time is right to attempt to combine insights from the study of both natural and artificial neuromodulatory systems in the context of a wider set of tools and relevant models developed within artificial life---from abstract generic models of network dynamics to models of specific systems with analogous properties such as gene networks or social networks. We hope to see the beginnings of a common framework for investigating neuromodulation (and analogous systems) emerge.
This half-day workshop seeks to bring together researchers who are interested in understanding how dynamics on networks can be modelled and understood in the context of processes embedded within space and time, by focussing on the question: what does neuromodulation add to neural behaviour? Our aim is an interdisciplinary meeting combining contributions from:
Theoretical, computational and empirical neuroscience
Neural computation and adaptive systems
The intention is to focus on how relevant models from each of these disciplines can inform one another. The workshop will combine invited presentations with a panel discussion and poster session.
Chris Buckley (School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton)
Seth Bullock (School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton)
Andrew Philippides (Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, University of Sussex)