Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Episode 22: Underdeterminacy & Neural Circuits

Sloppiness, stiffness, and stomatogastric ganglion! This episode on underdeterminacy in neural circuits will introduce you to all these topics, as well as to special guest Alex Williams! To start, we take you way back to algebra class with a refresher on what makes a system "underdetermined" (essentially, more unknowns than constraints). There are two ways this can be a problem in neuroscience: (1) neural circuit modelers don't have enough data to constrain their models, and (2) biology itself is underconstrained, leading to differences across individuals within a species. We talk about both of these issues separately, the ways in which they interact, and the practical effects they have for the study of the nervous system. The first topic spurs a broad discussion on the philosophy of modelling and the potential pitfalls that careful scientists need to avoid. To explore this in more detail, we discuss an excellent modelling paper on the oculor-motor system that demonstrates ways in which models should guide experiments. For the latter topic, we delve into Eve Marder's work on crustaceans, wherein she carefully documents the incredible variety across individuals. Having worked in Eve's lab himself, Alex provides expertise and anecdotes on this topic throughout!

We read:
Computational models in the age of large datasets
A modeling framework for deriving the structural and functional architecture of a short-term memory microcircuit

And mentioned:
Our episode on "Does Neuroscience Need More Behavior?"
Why Are Computational Neuroscience and Systems Biology So Separate?
James Sethna's work on sloppiness 

Also potentially of interest:
Grace's blog post on Eve Marder's work

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here.

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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