CS Colloquium Series @ UCY

Department of Computer Science - University of Cyprus

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Colloquium Coordinator: Demetris Zeinalipour

Colloquium: On the quest of understanding the brain: from neural coding to self-control behaviour, Dr. Chris Christodoulou (University of Cyprus, Cyprus), Friday, January 25, 2019, 9.30-10.30 EET.

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Cyprus cordially invites you to the Colloquium entitled:

On the quest of understanding the brain: from neural coding to self-control behaviour


Speaker: Dr. Chris Christodoulou
Affiliation: University of Cyprus, Cyprus
Category: Colloquium
Location: Room 148, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences (FST-01), 1 University Avenue, 2109 Nicosia, Cyprus (directions)
Date: Friday, January 25, 2019
Time: 9.30-10.30 EET
Host: Prof. Constantinos Pattichis (pattichi-AT-cs.ucy.ac.cy)
URL: https://www.cs.ucy.ac.cy/colloquium/index.php#cs.ucy.2019.christodoulou

In the quest of understanding the brain we have to investigate it at all levels: from the behaviours we are capable of, to the synapses, neurons and local neuronal circuits. In the latter, which is a bottom up approach, one fundamental problem is to understand how neurons code information, which could provide a basis for the analytical evaluation of the brain's information processing capability. In the former, which is a top down approach, self-control is an irrational behaviour worth investigating and understanding. This talk will touch both on aspects of neural coding and of modelling self-control behaviour. Natural cortical neuron responses have been found to be highly irregular at high firing rates, which is incosistent with temporal integration of random postsynaptic potentials. This gave rise to two conflicting possible explanations on the nature of the neural code: is it based on rate encoding or is it based on precise processing of coincident presynaptic events? Moreover, another issue which arose was to identify what determines the highly variable firing observed in neurons. This part of the talk will address the latter with a reference to the possible functional role of high firing irregularity to learning optimisation. It will also discuss possible ways to address the neuronal coding controversy through: (i) a measure, based on the membrane potential slope prior to firing, inferring the relative contribution of coincidence detection and temporal integration to the firing of spikes of a simple neuron model and (ii) with a reference to a spike-based measure based on the discrete reverse correlation. Self-control can be defined as choosing a large delayed reward, while precommitment is the making of a choice with the specific aim of denying oneself future choices. Problems in exercising self control, suggest a conflict between cognition and motivation, which has been linked to competition between higher and lower brain functions or different value systems in the brain; in particular, parts of the limbic system are preferentially activated by decisions involving instant rewards, whereas regions of the prefrontal cortex are engaged uniformly by intertemporal choices irrespective of delay. This premise of an internal process model lead to a behaviour model being proposed, based on which we designed and implemented a computational model of self-control. This part of the talk will present this model and its results, highlighting its generality to multiagent reinforcement learning tasks and finish by an attempt to relate self-control behaviour with consciousness.

Short Bio:
Chris Christodoulou received a BEng degree in Electronic Engineering from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London (1991) and a PhD in Computational Neuroscience/Neural Networks from King's College, University of London (1997). He also holds a BA degree in German from Birkbeck College, University of London (2008). He worked as a Postgraduate Research Assistant (1991-1995) and a Postdoctoral Research Associate (1995-1997) at the Centre for Neural Networks, King's College, University of London. He joined Birkbeck College, University of London as a Lecturer in 1997 where he worked till 2005 and was also a Visiting Research Fellow at King's College (1997-2001). Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the University of Cyprus after joining in 2005. Since 2005 he is also a Visiting Research Fellow at Birkbeck College. Chris' research interests focus on Computational Neuroscience as well as on Neural Networks.

This colloquium is part of the speaker's procedure for evaluation and promotion from Associate Professor to Professor.

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