Historically, data collection in neuroscience has outpaced developments in theory and computation. As a result the field lacks the simple concepts needed to unify results of huge numbers of experiments. However, in recent years the power of theoretical approaches has increased, and we are now starting to see the formulation of models that are linked tightly to brain physiology and anatomy.
At the same time, physics and engineering have advanced our understanding of complex systems and networks, and advances in digital computing hardware and software have made it feasible to test these models in detail. Finally, massive databases detailing brain structure and function are becoming available, covering scales from neuronal microcircuitry up to whole brain connectivity.
This confluence of rapid advances gives our Centre an exceptional new opportunity: to develop quantitative, testable theories of integrated brain function, and to test the predictions against experimental data that span multiple spatial and temporal scales.
Models and Technologies – examining all integrative brain functions
In essence, the Models and Technologies research theme institutes the same kind of theory-experiment interaction that has proven fruitful in the physical sciences and engineering. In parallel, our expertise in data analysis, data fusion, and control engineering is harnessed to monitor, stimulate, and potentially control brain activity. For example, we have the capacity to use microelectronics and nanoscale fabrication to make electrodes capable of both measurement and stimulation (developed in the Bionic Eye project), wireless interfacing, and new data fusion algorithms and techniques. These developments enable the integrative brain functions of attention, prediction, and decision to be probed and related to the underlying physiology and anatomy, thereby distinguishing between competing theories of how these functions are realised.