Real time on-chip implementation of dynamical systems with spiking neurons
Simulation of large-scale networks of spiking neurons has become appealing for understanding the computational principles of the nervous system by producing models based on biological evidence. In particular, networks that can assume a variety of (dynamically) stable states have been proposed as the basis for different behavioural and cognitive functions. This work focuses on implementing the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF), a formal method for mapping attractor networks and control-theoretic algorithms to biologically plausible networks of spiking neurons, on the SpiNNaker system, a massive programmable parallel architecture oriented to the simulation of networks of spiking neurons. We describe how to encode and decode analog values to patterns of neural spikes directly on chip. These methods take advantage of the full programmability of the ARM968 cores constituting the processing base of a SpiNNaker node, and exploit the fast Network-on-chip for spike communication. In this paper we focus on the fundamentals of representing, transforming and implementing dynamics in spiking networks. We show real time simulation results demonstrating the NEF principles and discuss advantages, precision and scalability. More generally, the present approach can be used to state and test hypotheses with large-scale spiking neural network models for a range of different cognitive functions and behaviours.