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Title: Interrogating theoretical models of neural computation with emergent property inference
A cornerstone of theoretical neuroscience is the circuit model: a system of equations that captures a hypothesized neural mechanism. Such models are valuable when they give rise to an experimentally observed phenomenon -- whether behavioral or a pattern of neural activity -- and thus can offer insights into neural computation. The operation of these circuits, like all models, critically depends on the choice of model parameters. A key step is then to identify the model parameters consistent with observed phenomena: to solve the inverse problem. In this work, we present a novel technique, emergent property inference (EPI), that brings the modern probabilistic modeling toolkit to theoretical neuroscience. When theorizing circuit models, theoreticians predominantly focus on reproducing computational properties rather than a particular dataset. Our method uses deep neural networks to learn parameter distributions with these computational properties. This methodology is introduced through a motivational example of parameter inference in the stomatogastric ganglion. EPI is then shown to allow precise control over the behavior of inferred parameters and to scale in parameter dimension better than alternative techniques. In the remainder of this work, we present novel theoretical findings in models of primary visual cortex and superior colliculus, which were gained through more » the examination of complex parametric structure captured by EPI. Beyond its scientific contribution, this work illustrates the variety of analyses possible once deep learning is harnessed towards solving theoretical inverse problems. « less
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  1. Abstract

    In neuroscience, computational modeling is an effective way to gain insight into cortical mechanisms, yet the construction and analysis of large-scale network models—not to mention the extraction of underlying principles—are themselves challenging tasks, due to the absence of suitable analytical tools and the prohibitive costs of systematic numerical exploration of high-dimensional parameter spaces. In this paper, we propose a data-driven approach assisted by deep neural networks (DNN). The idea is to first discover certain input-output relations, and then to leverage this information and the superior computation speeds of the well-trained DNN to guide parameter searches and to deduce theoretical understanding. To illustrate this novel approach, we used as a test case a medium-size network of integrate-and-fire neurons intended to model local cortical circuits. With the help of an accurate yet extremely efficient DNN surrogate, we revealed the statistics of model responses, providing a detailed picture of model behavior. The information obtained is both general and of a fundamental nature, with direct application to neuroscience. Our results suggest that the methodology proposed can be scaled up to larger and more complex biological networks when used in conjunction with other techniques of biological modeling.

  2. Zhou, Dongzhuo Douglas (Ed.)
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  3. Recently, deep feedforward neural networks have achieved considerable success in modeling biological sensory processing, in terms of reproducing the input-output map of sensory neurons. However, such models raise profound questions about the very nature of explanation in neuroscience. Are we simply replacing one complex system (a biological circuit) with another (a deep network), without understanding either? Moreover, beyond neural representations, are the deep network's computational mechanisms for generating neural responses the same as those in the brain? Without a systematic approach to extracting and understanding computational mechanisms from deep neural network models, it can be difficult both to assess the degree of utility of deep learning approaches in neuroscience, and to extract experimentally testable hypotheses from deep networks. We develop such a systematic approach by combining dimensionality reduction and modern attribution methods for determining the relative importance of interneurons for specific visual computations. We apply this approach to deep network models of the retina, revealing a conceptual understanding of how the retina acts as a predictive feature extractor that signals deviations from expectations for diverse spatiotemporal stimuli. For each stimulus, our extracted computational mechanisms are consistent with prior scientific literature, and in one case yields a new mechanistic hypothesis. Thusmore »overall, this work not only yields insights into the computational mechanisms underlying the striking predictive capabilities of the retina, but also places the framework of deep networks as neuroscientific models on firmer theoretical foundations, by providing a new roadmap to go beyond comparing neural representations to extracting and understand computational mechanisms.« less
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  5. Obeid, I. ; Selesnik, I. ; Picone, J. (Ed.)
    The Neuronix high-performance computing cluster allows us to conduct extensive machine learning experiments on big data [1]. This heterogeneous cluster uses innovative scheduling technology, Slurm [2], that manages a network of CPUs and graphics processing units (GPUs). The GPU farm consists of a variety of processors ranging from low-end consumer grade devices such as the Nvidia GTX 970 to higher-end devices such as the GeForce RTX 2080. These GPUs are essential to our research since they allow extremely compute-intensive deep learning tasks to be executed on massive data resources such as the TUH EEG Corpus [2]. We use TensorFlow [3] as the core machine learning library for our deep learning systems, and routinely employ multiple GPUs to accelerate the training process. Reproducible results are essential to machine learning research. Reproducibility in this context means the ability to replicate an existing experiment – performance metrics such as error rates should be identical and floating-point calculations should match closely. Three examples of ways we typically expect an experiment to be replicable are: (1) The same job run on the same processor should produce the same results each time it is run. (2) A job run on a CPU and GPU should producemore »identical results. (3) A job should produce comparable results if the data is presented in a different order. System optimization requires an ability to directly compare error rates for algorithms evaluated under comparable operating conditions. However, it is a difficult task to exactly reproduce the results for large, complex deep learning systems that often require more than a trillion calculations per experiment [5]. This is a fairly well-known issue and one we will explore in this poster. Researchers must be able to replicate results on a specific data set to establish the integrity of an implementation. They can then use that implementation as a baseline for comparison purposes. A lack of reproducibility makes it very difficult to debug algorithms and validate changes to the system. Equally important, since many results in deep learning research are dependent on the order in which the system is exposed to the data, the specific processors used, and even the order in which those processors are accessed, it becomes a challenging problem to compare two algorithms since each system must be individually optimized for a specific data set or processor. This is extremely time-consuming for algorithm research in which a single run often taxes a computing environment to its limits. Well-known techniques such as cross-validation [5,6] can be used to mitigate these effects, but this is also computationally expensive. These issues are further compounded by the fact that most deep learning algorithms are susceptible to the way computational noise propagates through the system. GPUs are particularly notorious for this because, in a clustered environment, it becomes more difficult to control which processors are used at various points in time. Another equally frustrating issue is that upgrades to the deep learning package, such as the transition from TensorFlow v1.9 to v1.13, can also result in large fluctuations in error rates when re-running the same experiment. Since TensorFlow is constantly updating functions to support GPU use, maintaining an historical archive of experimental results that can be used to calibrate algorithm research is quite a challenge. This makes it very difficult to optimize the system or select the best configurations. The overall impact of all of these issues described above is significant as error rates can fluctuate by as much as 25% due to these types of computational issues. Cross-validation is one technique used to mitigate this, but that is expensive since you need to do multiple runs over the data, which further taxes a computing infrastructure already running at max capacity. GPUs are preferred when training a large network since these systems train at least two orders of magnitude faster than CPUs [7]. Large-scale experiments are simply not feasible without using GPUs. However, there is a tradeoff to gain this performance. Since all our GPUs use the NVIDIA CUDA® Deep Neural Network library (cuDNN) [8], a GPU-accelerated library of primitives for deep neural networks, it adds an element of randomness into the experiment. When a GPU is used to train a network in TensorFlow, it automatically searches for a cuDNN implementation. NVIDIA’s cuDNN implementation provides algorithms that increase the performance and help the model train quicker, but they are non-deterministic algorithms [9,10]. Since our networks have many complex layers, there is no easy way to avoid this randomness. Instead of comparing each epoch, we compare the average performance of the experiment because it gives us a hint of how our model is performing per experiment, and if the changes we make are efficient. In this poster, we will discuss a variety of issues related to reproducibility and introduce ways we mitigate these effects. For example, TensorFlow uses a random number generator (RNG) which is not seeded by default. TensorFlow determines the initialization point and how certain functions execute using the RNG. The solution for this is seeding all the necessary components before training the model. This forces TensorFlow to use the same initialization point and sets how certain layers work (e.g., dropout layers). However, seeding all the RNGs will not guarantee a controlled experiment. Other variables can affect the outcome of the experiment such as training using GPUs, allowing multi-threading on CPUs, using certain layers, etc. To mitigate our problems with reproducibility, we first make sure that the data is processed in the same order during training. Therefore, we save the data from the last experiment and to make sure the newer experiment follows the same order. If we allow the data to be shuffled, it can affect the performance due to how the model was exposed to the data. We also specify the float data type to be 32-bit since Python defaults to 64-bit. We try to avoid using 64-bit precision because the numbers produced by a GPU can vary significantly depending on the GPU architecture [11-13]. Controlling precision somewhat reduces differences due to computational noise even though technically it increases the amount of computational noise. We are currently developing more advanced techniques for preserving the efficiency of our training process while also maintaining the ability to reproduce models. In our poster presentation we will demonstrate these issues using some novel visualization tools, present several examples of the extent to which these issues influence research results on electroencephalography (EEG) and digital pathology experiments and introduce new ways to manage such computational issues.« less