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  • Conference paper
    Rago A, Cocarascu O, Bechlivanidis C, Toni Fet al., 2020,

    Argumentation as a framework for interactive explanations for recommendations

    , KR 2020, 17th International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Publisher: IJCAI, Pages: 805-815, ISSN: 2334-1033

    As AI systems become ever more intertwined in our personallives, the way in which they explain themselves to and inter-act with humans is an increasingly critical research area. Theexplanation of recommendations is, thus a pivotal function-ality in a user’s experience of a recommender system (RS),providing the possibility of enhancing many of its desirablefeatures in addition to itseffectiveness(accuracy wrt users’preferences). For an RS that we prove empirically is effective,we show how argumentative abstractions underpinning rec-ommendations can provide the structural scaffolding for (dif-ferent types of) interactive explanations (IEs), i.e. explana-tions empowering interactions with users. We prove formallythat these IEs empower feedback mechanisms that guaranteethat recommendations will improve with time, hence render-ing the RSscrutable. Finally, we prove experimentally thatthe various forms of IE (tabular, textual and conversational)inducetrustin the recommendations and provide a high de-gree oftransparencyin the RS’s functionality.

  • Conference paper
    Wang K, Saputra RP, Foster JP, Kormushev Pet al., 2021,

    Improved energy efficiency via parallel elastic elements for the straight-legged vertically-compliant robot SLIDER

    , Japan, 24th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots and the Support Technologies for Mobile Machines

    Most state-of-the-art bipedal robots are designed to be anthropomorphic, and therefore possess articulated legs with knees. Whilstthis facilitates smoother, human-like locomotion, there are implementation issues that make walking with straight legs difficult. Many robotshave to move with a constant bend in the legs to avoid a singularityoccurring at the knee joints. The actuators must constantly work tomaintain this stance, which can result in the negation of energy-savingtechniques employed. Furthermore, vertical compliance disappears whenthe leg is straight and the robot undergoes high-energy loss events such asimpacts from running and jumping, as the impact force travels throughthe fully extended joints to the hips. In this paper, we attempt to improve energy efficiency in a simple yet effective way: attaching bungeecords as elastic elements in parallel to the legs of a novel, knee-less bipedrobot SLIDER, and show that the robot’s prismatic hip joints preservevertical compliance despite the legs being constantly straight. Due tothe nonlinear dynamics of the bungee cords and various sources of friction, Bayesian Optimization is utilized to find the optimals configurationof bungee cords that achieves the largest reduction in energy consumption. The optimal solution found saves 15% of the energy consumptioncompared to the robot configuration without parallel elastic elements.Additional Video:−Dz8A

  • Journal article
    Simoes Monteiro de Marvao A, McGurk K, Zheng S, Thanaj M, Bai W, Duan J, Biffi C, Mazzarotto F, Statton B, Dawes T, Savioli N, Halliday B, Xu X, Buchan R, Baksi A, Quinlan M, Tokarczuk P, Tayal U, Francis C, Whiffin N, Theotokis A, Zhang X, Jang M, Berry A, Pantazis A, Barton P, Rueckert D, Prasad S, Walsh R, Ho C, Cook S, Ware J, O'Regan Det al., 2021,

    Phenotypic expression and outcomes in individuals with rare genetic variants of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

    , Journal of the American College of Cardiology, ISSN: 0735-1097

    Background: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is caused by rare variants in sarcomereencoding genes, but little is known about the clinical significance of these variants in thegeneral population.Objectives: To compare lifetime outcomes and cardiovascular phenotypes according to thepresence of rare variants in sarcomere-encoding genes amongst middle-aged adults.Methods: We analysed whole exome sequencing and cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR)imaging in UK Biobank participants stratified by sarcomere-encoding variant status.Results: The prevalence of rare variants (allele frequency <0.00004) in HCM-associatedsarcomere-encoding genes in 200,584 participants was 2.9% (n=5,712; 1 in 35), and theprevalence of variants pathogenic or likely pathogenic for HCM (SARC-HCM-P/LP) was0.25% (n=493, 1 in 407). SARC-HCM-P/LP variants were associated with increased risk ofdeath or major adverse cardiac events compared to controls (HR 1.69, 95% CI 1.38 to 2.07,p<0.001), mainly due to heart failure endpoints (HR 4.23, 95% CI 3.07 to 5.83, p<0.001). In21,322 participants with CMR, SARC-HCM-P/LP were associated with asymmetric increasein left ventricular maximum wall thickness (10.9±2.7 vs 9.4±1.6 mm, p<0.001) buthypertrophy (≥13mm) was only present in 18.4% (n=9/49, 95% CI 9 to 32%). SARC-HCMP/LP were still associated with heart failure after adjustment for wall thickness (HR 6.74,95% CI 2.43 to 18.7, p<0.001).Conclusions: In this population of middle-aged adults, SARC-HCM-P/LP variants have lowaggregate penetrance for overt HCM but are associated with increased risk of adversecardiovascular outcomes and an attenuated cardiomyopathic phenotype. Although absoluteevent rates are low, identification of these variants may enhance risk stratification beyondfamilial disease.

  • Journal article
    Mersmann S, Stromich L, Song F, Wu N, Vianello F, Barahona M, Yaliraki Set al., 2021,

    ProteinLens: a web-based application for the analysis of allosteric signalling on atomistic graphs of biomolecules

    , Nucleic Acids Research, Vol: 49, Pages: W551-W558, ISSN: 0305-1048

    The investigation of allosteric effects in biomolecular structures is of great current interest in diverse areas, from fundamental biological enquiry to drug discovery. Here we present ProteinLens, a user-friendly and interactive web application for the investigation of allosteric signalling based on atomistic graph-theoretical methods. Starting from the PDB file of a biomolecule (or a biomolecular complex) ProteinLens obtains an atomistic, energy-weighted graph description of the structure of the biomolecule, and subsequently provides a systematic analysis of allosteric signalling and communication across the structure using two computationally efficient methods: Markov Transients and bond-to-bond propensities. ProteinLens scores and ranks every bond and residue according to the speed and magnitude of the propagation of fluctuations emanating from any site of choice (e.g. the active site). The results are presented through statistical quantile scores visualised with interactive plots and adjustable 3D structure viewers, which can also be downloaded. ProteinLens thus allows the investigation of signalling in biomolecular structures of interest to aid the detection of allosteric sites and pathways. ProteinLens is implemented in Python/SQL and freely available to use at:

  • Journal article
    Rago A, Cocarascu O, Bechlivanidis C, Lagnado D, Toni Fet al., 2021,

    Argumentative explanations for interactive recommendations

    , Artificial Intelligence, Vol: 296, Pages: 1-22, ISSN: 0004-3702

    A significant challenge for recommender systems (RSs), and in fact for AI systems in general, is the systematic definition of explanations for outputs in such a way that both the explanations and the systems themselves are able to adapt to their human users' needs. In this paper we propose an RS hosting a vast repertoire of explanations, which are customisable to users in their content and format, and thus able to adapt to users' explanatory requirements, while being reasonably effective (proven empirically). Our RS is built on a graphical chassis, allowing the extraction of argumentation scaffolding, from which diverse and varied argumentative explanations for recommendations can be obtained. These recommendations are interactive because they can be questioned by users and they support adaptive feedback mechanisms designed to allow the RS to self-improve (proven theoretically). Finally, we undertake user studies in which we vary the characteristics of the argumentative explanations, showing users' general preferences for more information, but also that their tastes are diverse, thus highlighting the need for our adaptable RS.

  • Conference paper
    Laumann F, Kügelgen JV, Barahona M, 2021,

    Kernel two-sample and independence tests for non-stationary random processes

    , ITISE 2021 (7th International conference on Time Series and Forecasting), Publisher:, Pages: 1-13

    Two-sample and independence tests with the kernel-based MMD and HSIC haveshown remarkable results on i.i.d. data and stationary random processes.However, these statistics are not directly applicable to non-stationary randomprocesses, a prevalent form of data in many scientific disciplines. In thiswork, we extend the application of MMD and HSIC to non-stationary settings byassuming access to independent realisations of the underlying random process.These realisations - in the form of non-stationary time-series measured on thesame temporal grid - can then be viewed as i.i.d. samples from a multivariateprobability distribution, to which MMD and HSIC can be applied. We further showhow to choose suitable kernels over these high-dimensional spaces by maximisingthe estimated test power with respect to the kernel hyper-parameters. Inexperiments on synthetic data, we demonstrate superior performance of ourproposed approaches in terms of test power when compared to currentstate-of-the-art functional or multivariate two-sample and independence tests.Finally, we employ our methods on a real socio-economic dataset as an exampleapplication.

  • Conference paper
    Cully A, 2021,

    Multi-Emitter MAP-Elites: Improving quality, diversity and convergence speed with heterogeneous sets of emitters

    , Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO)

    Quality-Diversity (QD) optimisation is a new family of learning algorithmsthat aims at generating collections of diverse and high-performing solutions.Among those algorithms, MAP-Elites is a simple yet powerful approach that hasshown promising results in numerous applications. In this paper, we introduce anovel algorithm named Multi-Emitter MAP-Elites (ME-MAP-Elites) that improvesthe quality, diversity and convergence speed of MAP-Elites. It is based on therecently introduced concept of emitters, which are used to drive thealgorithm's exploration according to predefined heuristics. ME-MAP-Elitesleverages the diversity of a heterogeneous set of emitters, in which eachemitter type is designed to improve differently the optimisation process.Moreover, a bandit algorithm is used to dynamically find the best emitter setdepending on the current situation. We evaluate the performance ofME-MAP-Elites on six tasks, ranging from standard optimisation problems (in 100dimensions) to complex locomotion tasks in robotics. Our comparisons againstMAP-Elites and existing approaches using emitters show that ME-MAP-Elites isfaster at providing collections of solutions that are significantly morediverse and higher performing. Moreover, in the rare cases where no fruitfulsynergy can be found between the different emitters, ME-MAP-Elites isequivalent to the best of the compared algorithms.

  • Conference paper
    Rakicevic N, Cully A, Kormushev P, 2021,

    Policy manifold search: exploring the manifold hypothesis for diversity-based neuroevolution

    , Proceedings of the 2021 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference

    Neuroevolution is an alternative to gradient-based optimisation that has thepotential to avoid local minima and allows parallelisation. The main limitingfactor is that usually it does not scale well with parameter spacedimensionality. Inspired by recent work examining neural network intrinsicdimension and loss landscapes, we hypothesise that there exists alow-dimensional manifold, embedded in the policy network parameter space,around which a high-density of diverse and useful policies are located. Thispaper proposes a novel method for diversity-based policy search viaNeuroevolution, that leverages learned representations of the policy networkparameters, by performing policy search in this learned representation space.Our method relies on the Quality-Diversity (QD) framework which provides aprincipled approach to policy search, and maintains a collection of diversepolicies, used as a dataset for learning policy representations. Further, weuse the Jacobian of the inverse-mapping function to guide the search in therepresentation space. This ensures that the generated samples remain in thehigh-density regions, after mapping back to the original space. Finally, weevaluate our contributions on four continuous-control tasks in simulatedenvironments, and compare to diversity-based baselines.

  • Journal article
    Saputra RP, Rakicevic N, Kuder I, Bilsdorfer J, Gough A, Dakin A, Cocker ED, Rock S, Harpin R, Kormushev Pet al., 2021,

    ResQbot 2.0: an improved design of a mobile rescue robot with an inflatable neck securing device for safe casualty extraction

    , Applied Sciences, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-18, ISSN: 2076-3417

    Despite the fact that a large number of research studies have been conducted in the field of searchand rescue robotics, significantly little attention has been given to the development of rescue robotscapable of performing physical rescue interventions, including loading and transporting victims toa safe zone—i.e. casualty extraction tasks. The aim of this study is to develop a mobile rescue robotthat could assist first responders when saving casualties from a danger area by performing a casualty extraction procedure, whilst ensuring that no additional injury is caused by the operation andno additional lives are put at risk. In this paper, we present a novel design of ResQbot 2.0—a mobilerescue robot designed for performing the casualty extraction task. This robot is a stretcher-type casualty extraction robot, which is a significantly improved version of the initial proof-of-concept prototype, ResQbot (retrospectively referred to as ResQbot 1.0), that has been developed in our previous work. The proposed designs and development of the mechanical system of ResQbot 2.0, as wellas the method for safely loading a full body casualty onto the robot’s ‘stretcher bed’, are describedin detail based on the conducted literature review, evaluation of our previous work and feedbackprovided by medical professionals. To verify the proposed design and the casualty extraction procedure, we perform simulation experiments in Gazebo physics engine simulator. The simulationresults demonstrate the capability of ResQbot 2.0 to successfully carry out safe casualty extractions

  • Journal article
    Cyras K, Oliveira T, Karamlou M, Toni Fet al., 2021,

    Assumption-based argumentation with preferences and goals for patient-centric reasoning with interacting clinical guidelines

    , Argument and Computation, Vol: 12, Pages: 149-189, ISSN: 1946-2166

    A paramount, yet unresolved issue in personalised medicine is that of automated reasoning with clinical guidelines in multimorbidity settings. This entails enabling machines to use computerised generic clinical guideline recommendations and patient-specific information to yield patient-tailored recommendations where interactions arising due to multimorbidities are resolved. This problem is further complicated by patient management desiderata, in particular the need to account for patient-centric goals as well as preferences of various parties involved. We propose to solve this problem of automated reasoning with interacting guideline recommendations in the context of a given patient by means of computational argumentation. In particular, we advance a structured argumentation formalism ABA+G (short for Assumption-Based Argumentation with Preferences (ABA+) and Goals) for integrating and reasoning with information about recommendations, interactions, patient’s state, preferences and prioritised goals. ABA+G combines assumption-based reasoning with preferences and goal-driven selection among reasoning outcomes. Specifically, we assume defeasible applicability of guideline recommendations with the general goal of patient well-being, resolve interactions (conflicts and otherwise undesirable situations) among recommendations based on the state and preferences of the patient, and employ patient-centered goals to suggest interaction-resolving, goal-importance maximising and preference-adhering recommendations. We use a well-established Transition-based Medical Recommendation model for representing guideline recommendations and identifying interactions thereof, and map the components in question, together with the given patient’s state, prioritised goals, and preferences over actions, to ABA+G for automated reasoning. In this, we follow principles of patient management and establish corresponding theoretical properties as well as illustrate our approach in realis

  • Conference paper
    Frazelle C, Walker I, AlAttar A, Kormushev Pet al., 2021,

    Kinematic-model-free control for space operations with continuum Manipulators

    , USA, IEEE Conference on Aerospace, Publisher: IEEE, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 1095-323X

    Continuum robots have strong potential for application in Space environments. However, their modeling is challenging in comparison with traditional rigid-link robots. The Kinematic-Model-Free (KMF) robot control method has been shown to be extremely effective in permitting a rigid-link robot to learn approximations of local kinematics and dynamics (“kinodynamics”) at various points in the robot's task space. These approximations enable the robot to follow various trajectories and even adapt to changes in the robot's kinematic structure. In this paper, we present the adaptation of the KMF method to a three-section, nine degrees-of-freedom continuum manipulator for both planar and spatial task spaces. Using only an external 3D camera, we show that the KMF method allows the continuum robot to converge to various desired set points in the robot's task space, avoiding the complexities inherent in solving this problem using traditional inverse kinematics. The success of the method shows that a continuum robot can “learn” enough information from an external camera to reach and track desired points and trajectories, without needing knowledge of exact shape or position of the robot. We similarly apply the method in a simulated example of a continuum robot performing an inspection task on board the ISS.

  • Journal article
    AlAttar A, Cursi F, Kormushev P, 2021,

    Kinematic-model-free redundancy resolution using multi-point tracking and control for robot manipulation

    , Applied Sciences, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-15, ISSN: 2076-3417

    Abstract: Robots have been predominantly controlled using conventional control methods that require prior knowledge of the robots’ kinematic and dynamic models. These controllers can be challenging to tune and cannot directly adapt to changes in kinematic structure or dynamic properties. On the other hand, model-learning controllers can overcome such challenges.Our recently proposed model-learning orientation controller has shown promising ability to simul6 taneously control a three-degrees-of-freedom robot manipulator’s end-effector pose. However, this controller does not perform optimally with robots of higher degrees-of-freedom nor does it resolve redundancies. The research presented in this paper extends the state-of-the-art kinematic9 model-free controller to perform pose control of hyper-redundant robot manipulators and resolve redundancies by tracking and controlling multiple points along the robot’s serial chain. The results show that with more control points, the controller is able to reach desired poses in fewer steps, yielding an improvement of up to 66%, and capable of achieving complex configurations. The algorithm was validated by running the simulation 100 times and it was found that 82% of the times the robot successfully reached the desired target pose within 150 steps.

  • Journal article
    Myall AC, Peach RL, Wei├če AY, Davies F, Mookerjee S, Holmes A, Barahona Met al., 2021,

    Network memory in the movement of hospital patients carrying drug-resistant bacteria

    , Applied Network Science, Vol: 6, ISSN: 2364-8228

    Hospitals constitute highly interconnected systems that bring into contact anabundance of infectious pathogens and susceptible individuals, thus makinginfection outbreaks both common and challenging. In recent years, there hasbeen a sharp incidence of antimicrobial-resistance amongsthealthcare-associated infections, a situation now considered endemic in manycountries. Here we present network-based analyses of a data set capturing themovement of patients harbouring drug-resistant bacteria across three largeLondon hospitals. We show that there are substantial memory effects in themovement of hospital patients colonised with drug-resistant bacteria. Suchmemory effects break first-order Markovian transitive assumptions andsubstantially alter the conclusions from the analysis, specifically on noderankings and the evolution of diffusive processes. We capture variable lengthmemory effects by constructing a lumped-state memory network, which we then useto identify overlapping communities of wards. We find that these communities ofwards display a quasi-hierarchical structure at different levels of granularitywhich is consistent with different aspects of patient flows related to hospitallocations and medical specialties.

  • Conference paper
    Tavakoli A, Fatemi M, Kormushev P, 2021,

    Learning to represent action values as a hypergraph on the action vertices

    , Vienna, Austria, International Conference on Learning Representations

    Action-value estimation is a critical component of many reinforcement learning(RL) methods whereby sample complexity relies heavily on how fast a good estimator for action value can be learned. By viewing this problem through the lens ofrepresentation learning, good representations of both state and action can facilitateaction-value estimation. While advances in deep learning have seamlessly drivenprogress in learning state representations, given the specificity of the notion ofagency to RL, little attention has been paid to learning action representations. Weconjecture that leveraging the combinatorial structure of multi-dimensional actionspaces is a key ingredient for learning good representations of action. To test this,we set forth the action hypergraph networks framework—a class of functions forlearning action representations in multi-dimensional discrete action spaces with astructural inductive bias. Using this framework we realise an agent class basedon a combination with deep Q-networks, which we dub hypergraph Q-networks.We show the effectiveness of our approach on a myriad of domains: illustrativeprediction problems under minimal confounding effects, Atari 2600 games, anddiscretised physical control benchmarks.

  • Conference paper
    Cyras K, Rago A, Emanuele A, Baroni P, Toni Fet al., 2021,

    Argumentative XAI: A Survey

    , The 30th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-21)
  • Journal article
    Qian Y, Expert P, Panzarasa P, Barahona Met al., 2021,

    Geometric graphs from data to aid classification tasks with Graph Convolutional Networks

    , Patterns, Vol: 2, ISSN: 2666-3899

    Traditional classification tasks learn to assign samples to given classes based solely on sample features. This paradigm is evolving to include other sources of information, such as known relations between samples. Here, we show that, even if additional relational information is not available in the dataset, one can improve classification by constructing geometric graphs from the features themselves, and using them within a Graph Convolutional Network. The improvement in classification accuracy is maximized by graphs that capture sample similarity with relatively low edge density. We show that such feature-derived graphs increase the alignment of the data to the ground truth while improving class separation. We also demonstrate that the graphs can be made more efficient using spectral sparsification, which reduces the number of edges while still improving classification performance. We illustrate our findings using synthetic and real-world datasets from various scientific domains.

  • Journal article
    Russell F, Takeda Y, Kormushev P, Vaidyanathan R, Ellison Pet al., 2021,

    Stiffness modulation in a humanoid robotic leg and knee

    , IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 6, Pages: 2563-2570, ISSN: 2377-3766

    Stiffness modulation in walking is critical to maintain static/dynamic stability as well as minimize energy consumption and impact damage. However, optimal, or even functional, stiffness parameterization remains unresolved in legged robotics.We introduce an architecture for stiffness control utilizing a bioinspired robotic limb consisting of a condylar knee joint and leg with antagonistic actuation. The joint replicates elastic ligaments of the human knee providing tuneable compliance for walking. It further locks out at maximum extension, providing stability when standing. Compliance and friction losses between joint surfaces are derived as a function of ligament stiffness and length. Experimental studies validate utility through quantification of: 1) hip perturbation response; 2) payload capacity; and 3) static stiffness of the leg mechanism.Results prove initiation and compliance at lock out can be modulated independently of friction loss by changing ligament elasticity. Furthermore, increasing co-contraction or decreasing joint angle enables increased leg stiffness, which establishes co-contraction is counterbalanced by decreased payload.Findings have direct application in legged robots and transfemoral prosthetic knees, where biorobotic design could reduce energy expense while improving efficiency and stability. Future targeted impact involves increasing power/weight ratios in walking robots and artificial limbs for increased efficiency and precision in walking control.

  • Journal article
    Peach RL, Arnaudon A, Schmidt JA, Palasciano HA, Bernier NR, Jelfs KE, Yaliraki SN, Barahona Met al., 2021,

    HCGA: Highly comparative graph analysis for network phenotyping

    , Patterns, Vol: 2, Pages: 100227-100227, ISSN: 2666-3899

    <jats:title>A<jats:sc>bstract</jats:sc></jats:title><jats:p>Networks are widely used as mathematical models of complex systems across many scientific disciplines, not only in biology and medicine but also in the social sciences, physics, computing and engineering. Decades of work have produced a vast corpus of research characterising the topological, combinatorial, statistical and spectral properties of graphs. Each graph property can be thought of as a feature that captures important (and some times overlapping) characteristics of a network. In the analysis of real-world graphs, it is crucial to integrate systematically a large number of diverse graph features in order to characterise and classify networks, as well as to aid network-based scientific discovery. In this paper, we introduce HCGA, a framework for highly comparative analysis of graph data sets that computes several thousands of graph features from any given network. HCGA also offers a suite of statistical learning and data analysis tools for automated identification and selection of important and interpretable features underpinning the characterisation of graph data sets. We show that HCGA outperforms other methodologies on supervised classification tasks on benchmark data sets whilst retaining the interpretability of network features. We also illustrate how HCGA can be used for network-based discovery through two examples where data is naturally represented as graphs: the clustering of a data set of images of neuronal morphologies, and a regression problem to predict charge transfer in organic semiconductors based on their structure. HCGA is an open platform that can be expanded to include further graph properties and statistical learning tools to allow researchers to leverage the wide breadth of graph-theoretical research to quantitatively analyse and draw insights from network data.</jats:p>

  • Journal article
    Cyras K, Heinrich Q, Toni F, 2021,

    Computational complexity of flat and generic assumption-based argumentation, with and without probabilities

    , Artificial Intelligence, Vol: 293, Pages: 1-36, ISSN: 0004-3702

    Reasoning with probabilistic information has recently attracted considerable attention in argumentation, and formalisms of Probabilistic Abstract Argumentation (PAA), Probabilistic Bipolar Argumentation (PBA) and Probabilistic Structured Argumentation (PSA) have been proposed. These foundational advances have been complemented with investigations on the complexity of some approaches to PAA and PBA, but not to PSA. We study the complexity of an existing form of PSA, namely Probabilistic Assumption-Based Argumentation (PABA), a powerful, implemented formalism which subsumes several forms of PAA and other forms of PSA. Specifically, we establish membership (general upper bounds) and completeness (instantiated lower bounds) of reasoning in PABA for the class FP#P (of functions with a #P-oracle for counting the solutions of an NP problem) with respect to newly introduced probabilistic verification, credulous and sceptical acceptance function problems under several ABA semantics. As a by-product necessary to establish PABA complexity results, we provide a comprehensive picture of the ABA complexity landscape (for both flat and generic, possibly non-flat ABA) for the classical decision problems of verification, existence, credulous and sceptical acceptance under those ABA semantics.

  • Journal article
    Maes A, Barahona M, Clopath C, 2021,

    Learning compositional sequences with multiple time scales through a hierarchical network of spiking neurons

    , PLoS Computational Biology, Vol: 17, ISSN: 1553-734X

    Sequential behaviour is often compositional and organised across multiple time scales: a set of individual elements developing on short time scales (motifs) are combined to form longer functional sequences (syntax). Such organisation leads to a natural hierarchy that can be used advantageously for learning, since the motifs and the syntax can be acquired independently. Despite mounting experimental evidence for hierarchical structures in neuroscience, models for temporal learning based on neuronal networks have mostly focused on serial methods. Here, we introduce a network model of spiking neurons with a hierarchical organisation aimed at sequence learning on multiple time scales. Using biophysically motivated neuron dynamics and local plasticity rules, the model can learn motifs and syntax independently. Furthermore, the model can relearn sequences efficiently and store multiple sequences. Compared to serial learning, the hierarchical model displays faster learning, more flexible relearning, increased capacity, and higher robustness to perturbations. The hierarchical model redistributes the variability: it achieves high motif fidelity at the cost of higher variability in the between-motif timings.

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