Friedemann Zenke

Neural dynamics of learning and computation

Friedemann Zenke will be joining the FMI and start the laboratory on June 1st, 2019.

The overall aim of our research group is to understand the principles that underlie memory formation and information processing in biological neural networks. To this end, we build neural network models with experience-dependent plasticity and study how specific function can emerge through the orchestrated interplay of different plasticity mechanisms.

Mathematical models allow us to integrate and conceptualize the vast amounts of data generated by modern experiments. Moreover, models offer a unique vantage point over the high-dimensional complexity encountered in neural networks because they allow us to control factors such as noise and partial observability, which can confound experimental data. Thus, models enable us to efficiently explore new theories and help generate experimentally testable predictions.

Our modeling efforts focus on how both the structure and function of neural networks are shaped by plasticity. Specifically, we take a three-fold approach, which combines simulations, theory, and data analysis. First, to simulate large rate-coding and spiking neural networks with plasticity, we rely on high-performance computing and machine learning techniques. Second, to interpret and understand the dynamics in our models, we employ a variety of analytical tools from dynamical systems, control theory and statistical physics. Finally, to compare the high-dimensional dynamics of models with neurobiological data, we work closely with our experimental colleagues on the development and the application of practical dimensionality reduction techniques.

Friedemann Zenke
Isabella Bogdal
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