8th July 2013, 8:28am
Research could help treat brain disorders
A DTI (diffusion tensor imaging MRI) of the brain A Lincoln academic is leading a workshop at an international conference aimed at advancing the understanding of the brain to predict novel treatment directions in conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Dr Basabdatta Bhattacharya, from the School of Engineering, University of Lincoln, UK, has organised and will be chairing a seminar at the annual Organisation for Computational Neurosciences (OCNS) meeting in Paris from 13-18 July.

Computational neuroscience is the study of brain function in terms of the information processing properties of the structures that make up the nervous system.

It is an interdisciplinary science that links the diverse fields of neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology with electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and physics.

It combines mathematical analyses and computer simulations with experimental neuroscience, to develop a principled understanding of the workings of nervous systems and apply it in a wide range of technologies. These computational models are used to frame hypotheses that can be directly tested by current or future biological and/or psychological experiments.

The aim of Dr Bhattacharya’s seminar is to bring together engineers and scientists who work on modelling brain behaviour to discuss potential methods of meaningful validation of neuro-computational models through experimental data.

Dr Bhattacharya, who specialises in electrical engineering, said: “Through the workshop we aim to create a way of benchmarking different models towards monitoring the brain’s nervous system and detecting anomalies such as those found in EEG readings. This will allow us to then compare these computational models and hopefully create pharmacological interventions that may help in conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.”

Recent years have seen a widespread interest in applying computational models to underpin the biological signatures in neurological and psychiatric disorders. This is vital for drug discovery, disease prediction and better diagnostics.

An essential condition for models simulating real-world phenomena to be ‘useable’ is to validate them in order to avoid inaccurate understanding and potentially conflicting predictions. In other words, a model can only be deemed useful as a tool to aid the understanding and treatment of disease if it is validated with experimental data.

Dr Bhattacharya said: “Although there is a large selection of computational models, mimicking the functions and behaviour of various brain parts plus the diversity in modelling and validation approaches make them difficult to compare. A structured and co-ordinated approach to set the standards for validation methods is yet to be initiated.”

The seminar group, which includes speakers from the University of Reading and University College London (UK); the Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Bremen (Germany); and the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris (France), will produce a report or white paper outlining their findings.
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