Section: Research Program

Macroscopic limits of stochastic neural networks and neural fields

The coordinated activity of the cortex is the result of the interactions between a very large number of cells. Each cell is well described by a dynamical system, that receives non constant input which is the superposition of an external stimulus, noise and interactions with other cells. Most models describing the emergent behavior arising from the interaction of neurons in large-scale networks have relied on continuum limits ever since the seminal work of Wilson and Cowan and Amari [38], [32]. Such models tend to represent the activity of the network through a macroscopic variable, the population-averaged firing rate.

In order to rationally describe neural fields and more generally large cortical assemblies, one should yet base their approach on what is known of the microscopic neuronal dynamics. At this scale, the equation of the activity is a set of stochastic differential equations in interaction. Obtaining the equations of evolution of the effective mean-field from microscopic dynamics is a very complex problem which belongs to statistical physics. As in the case of the kinetic theory of gases, macroscopic states are defined by the limit of certain quantities as the network size tends to infinity. When such a limit theorem is proved, one can be ensured that large networks are well approximated by the obtained macroscopic system. Qualitative distinctions between the macroscopic limit and finite-sized networks (finite-size effects), occurs in such systems. We have been interested in the relevant mathematical approaches dealing with macroscopic limits of stochastic neuronal networks, that are expressed in the form of a complex integro-differential stochastic implicit equations of McKean-Vlasov type including a new mathematical object, the spatially chaotic Brownian motion [14].

The major question consists in establishing the fundamental laws of the collective behaviors cortical assemblies in a number of contexts motivated by neuroscience, such as communication delays between cells [13], [12] or spatially extended areas, which is the main topic of our current research. In that case additional difficulties arise, since the connection between different neurons, as well as delays in communications, depend on space in a correlated way, leading to the singular dependence of the solutions in space, which is not measurable.