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  1. Abstract

    Plasticity and homeostatic mechanisms allow neural networks to maintain proper function while responding to physiological challenges. Despite previous work investigating morphological and synaptic effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the most prevalent growth factor in the central nervous system, how exposure to BDNF manifests at the network level remains unknown. Here we report that BDNF treatment affects rodent hippocampal network dynamics during development and recovery from glutamate-induced excitotoxicity in culture. Importantly, these effects are not obvious when traditional activity metrics are used, so we delve more deeply into network organization, functional analyses, and in silico simulations. We demonstrate that BDNF partially restores homeostasis by promoting recovery of weak and medium connections after injury. Imaging and computational analyses suggest these effects are caused by changes to inhibitory neurons and connections. From our in silico simulations, we find that BDNF remodels the network by indirectly strengthening weak excitatory synapses after injury. Ultimately, our findings may explain the difficulties encountered in preclinical and clinical trials with BDNF and also offer information for future trials to consider.

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  2. Abstract

    Measures of functional connectivity have played a central role in advancing our understanding of how information is transmitted and processed within the brain. Traditionally, these studies have focused on identifying redundant functional connectivity, which involves determining when activity is similar across different sites or neurons. However, recent research has highlighted the importance of also identifying synergistic connectivity—that is, connectivity that gives rise to information not contained in either site or neuron alone. Here, we measured redundant and synergistic functional connectivity between neurons in the mouse primary auditory cortex during a sound discrimination task. Specifically, we measured directed functional connectivity between neurons simultaneously recorded with calcium imaging. We used Granger Causality as a functional connectivity measure. We then used Partial Information Decomposition to quantify the amount of redundant and synergistic information about the presented sound that is carried by functionally connected or functionally unconnected pairs of neurons. We found that functionally connected pairs present proportionally more redundant information and proportionally less synergistic information about sound than unconnected pairs, suggesting that their functional connectivity is primarily redundant. Further, synergy and redundancy coexisted both when mice made correct or incorrect perceptual discriminations. However, redundancy was much higher (both in absolute terms and in proportion to the total information available in neuron pairs) in correct behavioural choices compared to incorrect ones, whereas synergy was higher in absolute terms but lower in relative terms in correct than in incorrect behavioural choices. Moreover, the proportion of redundancy reliably predicted perceptual discriminations, with the proportion of synergy adding no extra predictive power. These results suggest a crucial contribution of redundancy to correct perceptual discriminations, possibly due to the advantage it offers for information propagation, and also suggest a role of synergy in enhancing information level during correct discriminations.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    In recent years, there has been a growing demand for miniaturization, low power consumption, quick treatments, and non-invasive clinical strategies in the healthcare industry. To meet these demands, healthcare professionals are seeking new technological paradigms that can improve diagnostic accuracy while ensuring patient compliance. Neuromorphic engineering, which uses neural models in hardware and software to replicate brain-like behaviors, can help usher in a new era of medicine by delivering low power, low latency, small footprint, and high bandwidth solutions. This paper provides an overview of recent neuromorphic advancements in medicine, including medical imaging and cancer diagnosis, processing of biosignals for diagnosis, and biomedical interfaces, such as motor, cognitive, and perception prostheses. For each section, we provide examples of how brain-inspired models can successfully compete with conventional artificial intelligence algorithms, demonstrating the potential of neuromorphic engineering to meet demands and improve patient outcomes. Lastly, we discuss current struggles in fitting neuromorphic hardware with non-neuromorphic technologies and propose potential solutions for future bottlenecks in hardware compatibility.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  4. Motivated by Goldman's Theory of Human Action - a framework in which action decomposes into 1) base physical movements, and 2) the context in which they occur - we propose a novel learning formulation for motion and context, where context is derived as the complement to motion. More specifically, we model physical movement through the adoption of Therbligs, a set of elemental physical motions centered around object manipulation. Context is modeled through the use of a contrastive mutual information loss that formulates context information as the action information not contained within movement information. We empirically prove the utility brought by this separation of representation, showing sizable improvements in action recognition and action anticipation accuracies for a variety of models. We present results over two object manipulation datasets: EPIC Kitchens 100, and 50 Salads. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 3, 2025
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 20, 2024
  6. Robots are active agents that operate in dynamic scenarios with noisy sensors. Predictions based on these noisy sensor measurements often lead to errors and can be unreliable. To this end, roboticists have used fusion methods using multiple observations. Lately, neural networks have dominated the accuracy charts for perception-driven predictions for robotic decision-making and often lack uncertainty metrics associated with the predictions. Here, we present a mathematical formulation to obtain the heteroscedastic aleatoric uncertainty of any arbitrary distribution without prior knowledge about the data. The approach has no prior assumptions about the prediction labels and is agnostic to network architecture. Furthermore, our class of networks, Ajna, adds minimal computation and requires only a small change to the loss function while training neural networks to obtain uncertainty of predictions, enabling real-time operation even on resource-constrained robots. In addition, we study the informational cues present in the uncertainties of predicted values and their utility in the unification of common robotics problems. In particular, we present an approach to dodge dynamic obstacles, navigate through a cluttered scene, fly through unknown gaps, and segment an object pile, without computing depth but rather using the uncertainties of optical flow obtained from a monocular camera with onboard sensing and computation. We successfully evaluate and demonstrate the proposed Ajna network on four aforementioned common robotics and computer vision tasks and show comparable results to methods directly using depth. Our work demonstrates a generalized deep uncertainty method and demonstrates its utilization in robotics applications.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 16, 2024
  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 21, 2024
  8. Distance estimation from vision is fundamental for a myriad of robotic applications such as navigation, manipulation,and planning. Inspired by the mammal’s visual system, which gazes at specific objects, we develop two novel constraints relating time-to-contact, acceleration, and distance that we call the τ -constraint and Φ-constraint. They allow an active (moving) camera to estimate depth efficiently and accurately while using only a small portion of the image. The constraints are applicable to range sensing, sensor fusion, and visual servoing. We successfully validate the proposed constraints with two experiments. The first applies both constraints in a trajectory estimation task with a monocular camera and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). Our methods achieve 30-70% less average trajectory error while running 25× and 6.2× faster than the popular Visual-Inertial Odometry methods VINS-Mono and ROVIO respectively. The second experiment demonstrates that when the constraints are used for feedback with efference copies the resulting closed-loop system’s eigenvalues are invariant to scaling of the applied control signal. We believe these results indicate the τ and Φ constraint’s potential as the basis of robust and efficient algorithms for a multitude of robotic applications. 
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