School of Brain Cells & Circuits "Camillo Golgi"

Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture, Erice (Italy)


Modeling the brain and its pathologies.

Course Directors: Egidio D’Angelo, Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott & Viktor Jirsa

Date: 27th August – 1st September 2019


The 2019 Course of the school of brain cells and circuits will be dedicated to modelling the brain and its pathologies. Modelling local microcircuits properties as well as large scale network properties is essential to understand how the brain works. The complexity of the brain requires all different modelling strategies to deal with both the complexity of its physiology and biology as well as with the large data generated by current imaging techniques. The problem therefore requires understanding local microcircuits as well as global network behaviours. The course will conclude by discussing the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics for modelling brain function and dysfunction.


Tuesday 27-08-2019

Arrival and evening reception in the “Marsala cellar” (9pm to midnight)
Marsala wine and marzipan pastries typical of Erice. Music and chats as people join in.

Wednesday 28-08-2019

I – Different modeling approaches
Foreword: This section will introduce the concept of why we need to model the brain and why different approaches are needed to model various aspects of neuronal function, structure and dynamics. There are actually different ways to generate models. At one extreme, there are bottom-up models (i.e. constructed from the knowledge of elementary properties) implementing a process of “reverse engineering”. At the other extreme, there are top-down models (i.e. derived from an intuition about system organization). The different approaches will be presented.

“Why modeling the brain? And which strategy should be used?”
Egidio D’Angelo (University of Pavia, Italy), Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott (University College London, London & University of Pavia, Italy), Viktor Jirsa (AIX Marseille, France)

9:00 – “OPENING LECTURE: The interplay of theory, models and experiments: lessons from exemplar cases.”
Egidio D’Angelo (University of Pavia, Italy)

10:00-10:30 Coffee break & poster display

10:30 – “Physiologically realistic models.”
Michele Migliore (CNR Palermo, Italy)

11:15  “Mean field models.”
Alain Destexhe (Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience, France)

All morning speakers

12:30-14:30 Lunch break

14:30  “Phenomenological models.”
Marisa Saggio (Aix Marseille, France)

15:15  “Data-driven models of the mouse mesoscale connectome: network structure and functionality.”
Hannah Choi (Allen Instuitute, USA)

16:00  “Mathematical modelling of large-scale brain dynamics.”
Stephen Coombes (University of Nottingham, UK)

All afternoon speakers

17:15 – “POSTER BLITZ”
20 selected posters (3 min each, 1 slide)

Thursday 29-08-2019

II – Modeling brain data and signals
Foreword: This section will provide the basis to understand how integrated brain signals can be used to understand brain function and structure at different scales. Functional brain signals (e.g. and fMRI or EEG signal) contain information about the activity of all the neurons generating them but the question (known as “inverse” problem) is how this information can be extracted. The operation needs models that can be used to “fit” the brain signal datasets and, through a process of parameter optimization, to extract information about the underlying neuronal population. Similar approaches need to be used for deciphering structural data in terms of the underlying microstructure, which subtends also brain function and should be incorporated in brain dynamics too.

8:30 – “Human data: BOLD and sodium fMRI.”
Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott (University College London, UK & University of Pavia, Italy)

9:15 – “Microstructure modelling through MRI.”
Daniel Alexander (University College London, UK)

10:15-10:45 Coffee break & poster display

10:45 – “Modeling structural connectivity.”
Alessandro Daducci (Verona University, Italy)

11:30 – “Modelling Whole-Brain Dynamical Activity.”
Gustavo Deco (Pompeu Fabra University, Spain)

12:15 – “DISCUSSION”
All morning speakers

12:45-14:45 Lunch break

14:45 – “POSTER BLITZ”
20 selected posters (3 min each, 1 slide)

15:45-16:15 Coffee break & poster display

16:15 – “Model inversion: “The virtual brain approach”.”
Viktor Jirsa (AIX Marseille, France)

17:00 – “DEBATE: Top-down vs. Bottom-up: can we reach convergence?”
Foreword: This debate will confront the two different approaches and will highlight the ways data, models and theory interplay in addressing brain function and dysfunction. Will there be a convergence between bottom-up and top-down models ? and how ?
Moderator: Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott 
Pro convergence:
– Egidio D’Angelo 
– Michele Migliore 
No need for convergence:

– Gustavo Deco 
– Viktor Jirsa 


Friday 30-08-2019

III – Clinical and technical applications
Foreword: This section will consider how brain modelling, at its different levels, can be projected into technological and biomedical applications. These encompass cognitive architectures implemented in AI and closed-loop robotic controllers. These advanced applications, in turn can give important clues to understand how the brain works.

9:00 – “Bio-inspired closed loop robotic controllers.”
Egidio Falotico (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy)

9:45 – “Proof of concept of pathology modelling with closed loop simulations.”
Claudia Casellato (University of Pavia, Italy)

10:30-11:00 Coffee break & poster display

11:00 – “POSTER BLITZ”
20 selected posters (3 min each, 1 slide)

12:00-14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – “Modeling of brain states in pathology: epilepsy.”
John Terry (University of Exeter, UK)

14:45 – “Modeling brain pathology: towards a better comprehension of AD dementia.”
Alberto Redolfi (IRCCS Fatebenefratelli, Italy)

15:30-16:00 Coffee break & poster display

16:00 – “Modeling multiscale drug effects on brain dynamics.”
Hamid R. Noori (Max Plank Institute Tubingen, Germany)

16:45 – “DISCUSSION: How can we exploit brain models for medical Informatics? ”
Foreword: This discussion will face the issue on what aspects of brain modelling can be exploited for medical informatics, i.e. being integrated into big-data analysis and machine learning techniques. Will this lead to an advantage for medicine, and how?
Moderator: Claudia Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott
Lead discussants:
– Daniel Alexander
– Viktor Jirsa
– Egidio D’Angelo
– Alberto Redolfi

Saturday 31-08-2019


Sunday 01-09-2019


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