LARGE-SCALE NEURAL NETWORK MODELING: FROM NEURONAL MICROCIRCUITS TO WHOLE-BRAIN COMPLEX NETWORK DYNAMICS

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2018

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Neural networks mediate human cognitive functions, such as sensory processing, memory, attention, etc. Computational modeling has been proved as a powerful tool to test hypothesis of network mechanisms underlying cognitive functions, and to understand better human neuroimaging data. The dissertation presents a large-scale neural network modeling study of human brain visual/auditory processing and how this process interacts with memory and attention.

We first modeled visual and auditory objects processing and short-term memory with local microcircuits and a large-scale recurrent network. We proposed a biologically realistic network implementation of storing multiple items in short-term memory. We then realized the effect that people involuntarily switch attention to salient distractors and are difficult to distract when attending to salient stimuli, by

incorporating exogenous and endogenous attention modules. The integrated model could perform a number of cognitive tasks utilizing different cognitive functions by only changing a task-specification parameter. Based on the performance and simulated imaging results of these tasks, we proposed hypothesis for the neural mechanism beneath several important phenomena, which may be tested experimentally in the future.

Theory of complex network has been applied in the analysis of neuroimaging data, as it provides a topological abstraction of the human brain. We constructed functional connectivity networks for various simulated experimental conditions. A number of important network properties were studied, including the scale-free property, the global efficiency, modular structure, and explored their relations with task complexity. We showed that these network properties and their dynamics of our simulated networks matched empirical studies, which verifies the validity and importance of our modeling work in testing neural network hypothesis.

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