Sacha van Albada

Jülich Research Centre, Germany

Title: Bringing together cortical structure and dynamics in large-scaling spiking network models


We recently described a large-scale layered spiking network model of all vision-related areas in one hemisphere of macaque cortex [1,2]. The model predicts resting-state microscopic spiking activity and macroscopic correlations based on a connectivity map derived from axonal tracing data, complemented with predictive connectomics. The work illustrates the role of such integrative models in exposing gaps in experimental data and the need for quantitative estimates of brain architecture and connectivity in a manner that allows straightforward translation into models. We obtain such quantitative predictions for instance by using the dependence of inter-area connection density on distance and of laminar patterns on differences in neuron density. The macaque cortex model has population-specific connection probabilities but the connectivity is otherwise random. Other models have considered clustering within excitatory neuron populations. I present recent work in which we show that combined clustering of excitatory and inhibitory neurons accounts better for cortical task-related activity and variability dynamics [3].


This work was supported by the European Union (BrainScaleS, grant 269921 and Human Brain Project, grants 604102 and 785907), the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), the German Research Foundation (DFG grants SPP 2041, SFB936/A1,Z1, TRR169/A2, and ZUK 81/1), and computing time grant JINB33.


[1] Schmidt M, Bakker R, Shen K, Bezgin G, Diesmann M, van Albada SJ (2018) PLOS Comput Biol 14: e1006359.

[2] Schmidt M, Bakker R, Hilgetag CC, Diesmann M, van Albada SJ (2018) Brain Struct Func 223: 1409-1435.

[3] Rostami V, Rost T, van Albada SJ, Nawrot M (2018) Bernstein Conference abstract,


Sacha van Albada leads the Theoretical Neuroanatomy group at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-6) at Research Center Jülich in Germany. Her group studies the architecture and connectivity of brain circuits as the basis for neural network models at the resolution of neurons and synapses that relate structure to dynamics. She leads a task on large-scale spiking network models of cerebral cortex in the Human Brain Project, and in this same project she is implementation lead for a so-called Co-Design Project (cutting across subprojects) on visuomotor integration. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from University College Utrecht, followed by a Master's in Theoretical Physics from Utrecht University, and went on to do a PhD at the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, working with Peter Robinson on mean-field brain models. Before joining her current institute, the INM-6, in 2011, she did a two-year postdoc on tinnitus with Peter Tass at the INM-7. She has her own group since 2017.