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Simulation-based inference for efficient identification of generative models in computational connectomics

  • Recent advances in connectomics research enable the acquisition of increasing amounts of data about the connectivity patterns of neurons. How can we use this wealth of data to efficiently derive and test hypotheses about the principles underlying these patterns? A common approach is to simulate neuronal networks using a hypothesized wiring rule in a generative model and to compare the resulting synthetic data with empirical data. However, most wiring rules have at least some free parameters, and identifying parameters that reproduce empirical data can be challenging as it often requires manual parameter tuning. Here, we propose to use simulation-based Bayesian inference (SBI) to address this challenge. Rather than optimizing a fixed wiring rule to fit the empirical data, SBI considers many parametrizations of a rule and performs Bayesian inference to identify the parameters that are compatible with the data. It uses simulated data from multiple candidate wiring rule parameters and relies on machine learning methods to estimate a probability distribution (the 'posterior distribution over parameters conditioned on the data') that characterizes all data-compatible parameters. We demonstrate how to apply SBI in computational connectomics by inferring the parameters of wiring rules in an in silico model of the rat barrel cortex, given in vivo connectivity measurements. SBI identifies a wide range of wiring rule parameters that reproduce the measurements. We show how access to the posterior distribution over all data-compatible parameters allows us to analyze their relationship, revealing biologically plausible parameter interactions and enabling experimentally testable predictions. We further show how SBI can be applied to wiring rules at different spatial scales to quantitatively rule out invalid wiring hypotheses. Our approach is applicable to a wide range of generative models used in connectomics, providing a quantitative and efficient way to constrain model parameters with empirical connectivity data.

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Author:Jan BoeltsORCiD, Philipp HarthORCiD, Richard GaoORCiD, Daniel UdvaryORCiD, Felipe YanezORCiD, Daniel BaumORCiD, Hans-Christian HegeORCiDGND, Marcel OberlaenderORCiD, Jakob H. MackeORCiD
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):PLOS Computational Biology
Year of first publication:2023
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