Lecture 4: Driftdiffusion models
Reminder: differential equations we’ll encounter
NB: Beware of the units: Ex:
is not homogenous, $\dot{x}$ has the unit of $x$ divided by time.
Numerically solving differential equations
Timediscretize it:
Stochastic differential equations
Far more difficult: methods to solve them have been designed in late 20th century.
We’ll content ourselves with simulating them
White noise
Noise with all the frequencies (as if we added an infinite amount of sine funtions, ranging over an infinite amount of frequencies).
 Deltafunction (Dirac function):

intuitively: zero everwhere except at $t = 0$, where it “diverges to $+∞$”
NB:

Expected value: $⟨ξ(t)⟩ = 0$

Variance: infinite (you sum all the frequencies)
Differential equation with white noise
After discretizing:
where $Var(W(t)) = Δt$
It comes from Ito calculus. Basic idea of Brownian motion.
So overall:
where $η(t)$ is coming from a Gaussian process $\sim 𝒩(0, 1)$: at each timestep, you draw $η(t)$ from a Gaussian distribution $\sim 𝒩(0, 1)$.
NB: So be careful when intergrating: if you use a package when solving stochastic differential equations, it might not work! Do it by hand.
Model of behavior: neural implementation
What are neurons actually computing in the brain?
Behavior, cognition ⟹ Neural implementation
Hopfield Network
(short paper: 4 pages long, cited thousands of times)
 Associative memory:

when you have a hint/stimulus, you can retrieve the memory associated with it
Idea:

memories = fixed points of the dynamics
 i.e in the graph of neurons, each node is associated with a function $x_i(t)$. A fixed point is such a function which stays constant when its envionment/neighbors are fixed.

large networks can store

initial conditions = hints for memory retrieval
Decision making
Huge field related to many areas: neuroscience, economy, psychology, …
Perceptual decision making: an animal has to make a choice when presented a certain stimulus
The animal is forced to say something about the stimulus (ex: which one larger, brighter, etc…).
Ex: Experience with monkeys:
there is a bunch of dots presented to the animal: the animal is rewarded if it guesses which side (right or left) has had the most dots (eyetracking system to see where the animal is staring).
In the visual area MT (called V5), neurons seem to respond to motion direction.
As you increase the coherence of the motion, the firing distribution of these neurons are more and more distinguished.
Control experiment: by perturbing activity in MT, behavior is perturbed.
Now: how does the brain process information from MT?
The area LIP is very important in doing so.
 The lower the coherence, the larger the reaction time.
 There is a threshold mechanism: the neurons accumulate information a certain amount of information before making a decision
 This decision is correlated to a firing rate threshold in the LIP area
There are 2 completely different models which both have noise and a threshold mechanism to describe this in computational neuroscience literature.
Wang’s model (2002)
You have different competing populations of neurons:
 a population for “right”
 a population for “left”
 an inhibiting population
⇒ called the winner take all mechanism
Driftdiffusion model (Ratcliff and Rouder, 1998)

more theoretical: originally theoretical, didn’t model neurons per se at first

but can be applied to model the behavior of LIP neurons
There’s a decision variable $x$, which represent the firing rate of LIP neurons
where
 $ξ(t)$ is a white noise
 $I_A  I_B$ is a “drift force” for A (left) and B (right) in MT
and there are thresholds (positive and negative) above (or under) which the decision is made:
Reaction time:
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