The 11th Australasian Workshop on Neuro-Engineering and Computational Neuroscience is a three-day conference hosted at Sydney University from 27th-29th November, 2018.

Location: Eastern Avenue, Lecture Theatre 315 (Level 3). Posters will be displayed in Room 310.

Keynote Speakers

Propagating waves in visual cortex and their computational role

Propagating waves have been observed in various in vivo and in vitro preparations but their role still remains obscure. Propagating waves were also seen in physiological conditions, such as in primary and secondary visual cortical areas of awake monkey (Muller et al., Nature Commun. 2014), suggesting they may play a role in vision. Here, using voltage-sensitive dye imaging in awake monkey V1, we show that colliding propagating waves always sum sublinearly and mediate a suppressive effect. By using a probabilistic decoder, we show that this suppression enables to disambiguate stimuli. These features were also captured by computational models, using a mean-field approach.  The model suggests that the suppressive effect depends on two ingredients, the fact that inhibition has a higher gain than excitation, and the fact that they combine via conductance-based interactions. In conclusion, we show a plausible role for propagating waves in the processing of visual information.

Brain Songs: Discovering the relevant timescale and richness of repertoire of the human brain

A key unresolved problem in neuroscience is to determine the relevant timescale for understanding spatiotemporal dynamics across the whole brain. Yet, a significant problem has been the lack of whole-brain neuroimaging data at many different timescales. Much recent focus has been on discovering spatial correlation brain maps in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. The timescale of resting state networks has been found to be ultraslow (below 0.1Hz), which makes fMRI an appropriate tool for discovery for this timescale. Some evidence has come from other neuroimaging modalities such as MEG and EEG (albeit with more limited spatial resolution) suggesting that much faster timescales may be equally or more relevant for discovering spatiotemporal structure beyond static spatial maps derived from averaged signals. We propose a novel way to resolve these problems by using whole-brain modelling of fMRI signals allowing us to generate whole-brain neural dynamical activity at the millisecond scale. This method allows us to study the different timescales through binning, from milliseconds to seconds, the output of the model. These timescales can then be investigated using a novel method (poetically named brain songs) to extract the spacetime motifs at a given timescale. Using independent measures of entropy and hierarchy to characterize the richness of the dynamical repertoire, we show that both methods find a similar optimum at a timescale of around 200 ms in resting state and in task data. Significantly, we confirm the timescale in MEG data without using whole-brain modelling. This result is consistent with the emerging evidence from other studies for the importance of this timescale for allowing the optimal repertoire for brain dynamics.

Peer into your brain via contiguous scale data

Using genetics, imaging, behaviors and environmental data, together with advanced machine learning algorithms, we are able to assess the abnormalities of a patient brain and the cognitive activities of a healthy brain. In this talk we will concentrate on depression and schizophrenia. In depression, using the BWAS method we developed, we identified that an unbalanced reward and punishment sensitivity is the possible roots of the disease, as further confirmed in TMS treatments. As the key location of emotion, we found that OFC plays the central role in sleeping, drinking and smoking, although in drinking and smoking the functional connectivity changed in opposite directions as in depression. In schizophrenia, using the IDSCN method, it is found that the link between putamen and hippocampus is abnormal, with its genetic variant being SNP rs13107325. In summary, the reward and nonreward part of the brain, which is the key area for many mental disorders, should be an integrated part of an artificial intelligent system.

Shortcuts To The Amygdala

A decade ago, patient TN became cortically blind after 2 strokes. His visual cortex was completely destroyed as evident in his brain MRI and yet, when forced to judge the emotion of faces presented to him, he could do so above chance. This phenomena was coined affective blindsight and a possible explanation was put forward suggesting that an alternative subcortical route bypassing the visual cortex might convey this information to the amygdala, a known emotion centre in the brain. This hypothesis was contentious, however, as the very existence of this route in humans was yet to be proven, let alone its putative functional role in conveying affective information with bearing on behaviour. In this project, we have leveraged publicly available MRI data via the Human Connectome Project to show in 600+ people that an anatomical subcortical pulvinar amygdala route exists indeed and facilitates fear recognition. Moreover, we show that this circuit is functional, such that greater white matter connectivity is correlated with greater functional connectivity between the pulvinar and the amygdala.  These findings demonstrate that the brain affords alternative shortcuts which may speed up and ensure redundancy mechanisms for environmental information that is critical for survival, like fear.


Download official program (pdf)

Presentations: University of Sydney: Eastern Avenue, Lecture Theatre 315.

Posters: University of Sydney: Eastern Avenue, Room 310.

November 27: Day 1

This first day, themed New Directions in Brain Modeling and Analysis: Dynamics, Structure, and Function presents new and general methods for quantitative neuroscience. Presentations will introduce new tools and techniques and may include interactive software demonstrations.

(8:00-9:00) Registration and morning snacks
(9:00-9:30) Welcome and administrative overview
(9:30-11:20) Neural field theory and large-scale brain modeling
  • Gustavo Deco: Awakening: promoting transitions between different brain states in a probabilistic state space framework
  • Cliff Kerr: NetPyNE: a tool to develop, simulate and analyze data-driven multiscale biophysically-detailed network models
(10:50-11:20) Morning tea
(11:20-12:40) Cortical dynamics
(12:40-14:00) Lunch and poster installation
(14:00-15:20) Information theory and methods for large-scale datasets
  • Joe Lizier: Empirical analysis of information content and flows in neural data using JIDT
  • Mac Shine: The dynamic basis of cognition: an integrative core under the control of the ascending neuromodulatory system
(15:20-16:00) Afternoon tea
(16:00-17:20) Sleep dynamics
  • Andrew Phillips: Evolution of sleep-regulatory circuits: A predator-prey model
  • Bryn Jeffries: Data-driven Techniques for Insomnia Phenotyping from Sleep EEG
(17:20-19:00) Welcome Reception, with fancy canapes, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks.

November 28: Day 2

(8:00-8:50) Registration and morning snacks
(8:50-9:00) Introduction
(9:00-10:50) Cortical microcircuits

  • Alain Destexhe: Propagating waves in visual cortex and their computational role
  • Anthony Burkitt: Predictive coding through time: A real-time temporal alignment hypothesis
  • Peter Stratton: Neural oscillations and spiking assemblies drive each other in the brain
  • Shima Rashidi: A unified model of feature- based and spatial visual attention
  • Alan Freeman: A model for the development and dynamics of visual orientation selectivity

(10:50-11:20) Morning tea
(11:20-13:00) Large-scale brain modeling

  • Gustavo Deco: Brain Songs: Discovering the relevant timescale and richness of repertoire of the human brain
  • Michael Breakspear: Metastable brain waves
  • James Pang: Hemodynamic modelling of fMRI: Theory, prediction and applications
  • James Roberts: Large-scale cortical eigenmodes reorganize between infant sleep states and predict developmental outcome in preterms

(13:00-14:00) Lunch and poster installation
(14:00-15:50) Neuroengineering and Neuroscience-inspired AI

  • Tara Hamilton: Brain-inspired AI
  • Geoffrey Goodhill: The development of neural coding in the zebrafish brain
  • Zdenka Kuncic: Neuromorphic complexity and synthetic synapses in nanowire switch networks: towards learning ability in a beyond-CMOS nano-device
  • Nao Tsuchiya: A moment of conscious experience is very informative
  • Kevin Aquino: On the intersection between theory and experiment in large-scale brain network modelling

(16:20-17:40) Mini-talks and poster presentations (odd-numbered posters)
(16:20-16:40) Poster talks:
  • Marcus A. Triplett (poster #7)
  • Guozhang Chen (poster #15)
  • Mehdi Arabizadeh (poster #17)
  • Asem Wardak (poster #25)
(16:40-17:40) Poster session: odd numbered posters.
(18:00) Conference Dinner and NeuroEng Trivia, Grandstand Function Center

November 29: Day 3

(8:00-8:50) Registration and morning snacks
(8:50-9:00) Introduction
(9:00-10:40) Learning, plasticity, and neural coding

  • Marta Garrido: Shortcuts to the amygdala
  • Tatiana Kameneva: Electrophysiological clusters: cell types, morphologies and functional characteristics
  • James Henderson: Functional mechanisms underlie the emergence of a diverse range of plasticity phenomena
  • Peter Loxley: Neuro-dynamic programming with simple-cell sparse codes

(10:40-11:10) Morning tea
(11:10-13:00) Mini-talks and Poster session (even-numbered posters)
(11:10-11:30) Poster talks:
  • Ali Almasi (poster #14)
  • John James (poster #26)
  • Ying Xu (poster #28)
  • Mike Li (poster #34)
(11:30-13:00) Poster presentation (even-numbered posters)
(13:00-14:00) Lunch
(14:00-15:40) Systems neuroscience and cognition

(15:40-16:00) Presentation of awards and conference close


Budget Options

Being just a week away from the end of residential contracts, there will be many rooms available in college accomodation on campus, at affordable rates. You may contact Sydney University accomodation services to inquire directly via email. You may also investigate options through University Stays

There are many hotels and Airbnb options around Sydney.


We have negotiated discount rates for the following two hotels:

Mercure Sydney (4 star)
818-820 George Street, Chippendale.
Tel. +61 2 9217 6666
1.6km from conference venue (20 min walk or 12 min by bus)
Rate for conference delegates: $230/night (optional: +$25 breakfast)

Ibis World Square (3.5 star)
382–384 Pitt Street, Sydney.
Tel.  +61 2 8627 3111
2.5km from conference venue (31 min walk or 18 min by bus)
Rate for conference delegates: $200/night (optional: +$25 breakfast)

You can access these reduced rates by setting your DESTINATION as either "MERCURE SYDNEY" or "IBIS SYDNEY WORLD SQUARE" when you book here

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