A Practical Investigation into Achieving Bio-Plausibility in Evo-Devo Neural Microcircuits Feasible in an FPGA

Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University College London


Many researchers has conjectured, argued, or in some cases demonstrated, that bio-plausibility can bring about emergent properties such as adaptability, scalability, fault-tolerance, self-repair, reliability, and autonomy to bio-inspired intelligent systems. Evolutionary-developmental (evo-devo) spiking neural networks are a very bio-plausible mixture of such bio-inspired intelligent systems that have been proposed and studied by a few researchers. However, the general trend is that the complexity and thus the computational cost grow with the bio-plausibility of the system. FPGAs (Field- Programmable Gate Arrays) have been used and proved to be one of the flexible and cost efficient hardware platforms for research' and development of such evo-devo systems. However, mapping a bio-plausible evo-devo spiking neural network to an FPGA is a daunting task full of different constraints and trade-offs that makes it, if not infeasible, very challenging. This thesis explores the challenges, trade-offs, constraints, practical issues, and some possible approaches in achieving bio-plausibility in creating evolutionary developmental spiking neural microcircuits in an FPGA through a practical investigation along with a series of case studies. In this study, the system performance, cost, reliability, scalability, availability, and design and testing time and complexity are defined as measures for feasibility of a system and structural accuracy and consistency with the current knowledge in biology as measures for bio-plausibility. Investigation of the challenges starts with the hardware platform selection and then neuron, cortex, and evo-devo models and integration of these models into a whole bio-inspired intelligent system are examined one by one. For further practical investigation, a new PLAQIF Digital Neuron model, a novel Cortex model, and a new multicellular LGRN evo-devo model are designed, implemented and tested as case studies. Results and their implications for the researchers, designers of such systems, and FPGA manufacturers are discussed and concluded in form of general trends, trade-offs, suggestions, and recommendations.

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