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Optimal compensation for neuron death

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr. Cristina Savin.

One of the most impressive properties of the brain is its ability to sustain enormous amounts of damage while preserving neural function, as observed in many brain diseases and experimental manipulations. How does the brain compensate for damage, and what is the limit of this compensation?

We propose that the brain compensates optimally for neuron death. This preserves neural function to the greatest possible extent. We show that optimal compensation occurs in a variety of systems, including the occulomotor system, the cricket cercal system and the visual cortex. The mechanism underlying this compensation is balanced network dynamics; neuron death momentarily disrupts the balance of excitation and inhibition, but network dynamics automatically and rapidly recovers this balance, thereby restoring function. The limits of compensation depend on the nature of the disruption; once all the neurons that represent a particular signal dimension are silenced, rapid compensation for those signals becomes impossible. More generally, we propose optimal compensation as a computational principle; without it, optimal neural function will steadily degenerate as the typical wear and tear of a lifetime accumulates.

This talk is part of the Computational Neuroscience series.

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