Newsletter

In praise of Ernesto Hamburger, NeuroMat’s first dissemination team leader

The RIDC NeuroMat, with support from USP's Physics Institute and FAPESP, held the roundtable "Challenges of Scientific Dissemination: In praise of Ernesto Hamburger", one June 9. Prof. Hamburger was NeuroMat's first dissemination team leader. Current dissemination team leader in the RIDC, Fernando Paixão introduced Prof. Hamburger's contribution and the roundtable and the transcript of this talk was translated into English.

Moving brain theory along mathematical simplicity and biological plausibility

Mathematical simplicity and biological plausibility. The combining of these two axes is at the core of the inception and development of FAPESP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat). “Without biology, mathematicians can at most generate nice models, that could have internal coherence, but remain absolutely useless to provide a conceptual framework for neuroscience. Without mathematics, neuroscientists are unable to move to a higher level of abstraction and could fall into the trap of driving all their scientific power to gather minute details that have little to inform to a systemic understanding of neural nets,” said NeuroMat’s coordinator, Antonio Galves.

Towards a collaborative network in brain science

The workshop “High-Performance Computing, Stochastic Modeling and Databases in Neuroscience,” that FAPESP's Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat) held in the last week of April, was an occasion for strengthening ties among brain-science international consortia. Specifically, this event contributed to engaging NeuroMat’s technology-transfer team within the network that is facilitated by the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) with the forthcoming creation of creation of an INCF Special Interest Group on “stochastic modeling and statistical analysis of neural systems” and a formal collaboration with the INCF Program on Standards for Data Sharing, particularly with a task force on electrophysiology and on neuroimaging. INCF’s scientific director Sean Hill attended NeuroMat’s workshop and gave a talk on computational challenges of understanding the brain.

A mathematical framework for neuroscience: NeuroMat hosts event of large international brain initiatives

According to the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF), the current large-scale international brain initiatives are from the USA (the BRAIN Initiative and the Allen Institute), Europe (Human Brain Project), Japan (Brain/MINDS), Israel (IBT), Republic of Korea (Korea Brain Research Institute), China (China Brain) and Australia (AusBrain). Therefore, there are no internationally recognized Brazilian brain projects, not even Latin-american projects.

NeuroMat’s web-2.0 dissemination: towards an integrated wiki strategy

Almost simultaneously readers of the scholar journal Scientific Reports and the Portuguese and English editions of the electronic encyclopaedia Wikipedia had access to the same finding: the relationship between predictability and reaction time is sigmoid, not linear. This finding goes in contrast to what is known as Hick’s Law, a theory on the time a person takes to make a decision as a function of the possibilities that this person faces: more specifically, it is traditionally stated that the reaction time increases as a linear function of the log of the number of alternatives.

Of gaming, multidisciplinary science, and the functioning of the brain

Will the penalty taker shoot for the right, left or center of the football goal? Professional goalkeepers know that they must take into consideration as much information as possible to prevent the score: the history of the rival player, the position of the taker before contact, and so on. By doing so, goalkeepers are in fact generating a model to improve their prediction about how to stop the hit, though they might not even realize the cognitive process at play. This general idea —that one could call the Goalkeeper’s Dilemma— is potentially the basis of a renewed contribution to the understanding of brain functioning, at least according to members of an ongoing research project at FAPESP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat).

NeuroMat’s strategic directions for the next two years

NeuroMat has launched a strategic roadmap to direct research, technology-transfer and scientific-dissemination activities until 2018. NeuroMat is the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics, created in 2013 and hosted at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. The general goal of this project that probabilist Antonio Galves leads since its inception is to devise the new mathematics that are needed to make sense of the large, continuous inflow of research results neurobiology generates.

On the VI Latin American School on Computational Neuroscience (LASCON 2016): a NeuroMat op-ed

The subfield of neuroscience devoted to theory is called “computational neuroscience” and the reason for this is not only the obvious fact that we need computers to simulate brain models. The main reason is that the brain can be viewed as a system that does computations. Not computations in the sense that our digital computers do but in a broader sense, the one in which physical and chemical variables. Sensitive to the importance of computational neuroscience, developed countries in North America, Europe and Asia have been keeping courses and schools on computational neuroscience since the mid-1980s to foster the development of new generations of neuroscientists skilled in this area. As for Brazil and Latin America, until the mid-2000s we did not have a school on computational neuroscience, and LASCON is filling this gap.

Public-school sciences fair gives visibility to NeuroMat's educational activities

How does our brain process what we see, how do we make sense of colors? What is the relationship between our senses and our nervous system? How do we express the variability of experiments in data and graphics? Such issues were explored in scientific projects of elementary school students from four public institutions in the 1st Sciences Fair of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat), funded by FAPESP, in partnership with the Institutional Scholarship Program for Teacher Initiation (Pibid) of the Institute of Biosciences (IB) of the University of São Paulo (USP). The official name of the fair was "Connecting Public School and Scientific Research.” (In Portuguese.)

Random graphs in the brain: devising a renewed line of research

To make sense of neural connectivity is among the key challenges in neuroscience. This remains fundamentally a neuromathematical challenge, to the extent that the mathematical theory to understand patterns of connectivity is still to be made, but also also a communicational challenge, since it requires the bridging of relevant but still unconnected fields, such as experimental neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, functional imaging, probability, statistics and computer science. These two challenges are the core of the scientific project of FAPESP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat), which held from November 23 to 27 the workshop “Random Graphs in the Brain,” at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

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The Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics is hosted by the University of São Paulo and funded by FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation).

 

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