A spiking neural network model of the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus on the SpiNNaker machine

Basabdatta Sen Bhattacharya, Teresa Serrano-Gotarredona, Lorinc Balassa, Akash Bhattacharya, Alan Stokes, Andrew Rowley, Indar Sugiarto, Stephen Furber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a spiking neural network model of the thalamic Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (LGN) developed on SpiNNaker, which is a state-of-the-art digital neuromorphic hardware built with very-low-power ARM processors. The parallel, event-based data processing in SpiNNaker makes it viable for building massively parallel neuro-computational frameworks. The LGN model has 140 neurons representing a “basic building block” for larger modular architectures. The motivation of this work is to simulate biologically plausible LGN dynamics on SpiNNaker. Synaptic layout of the model is consistent with biology. The model response is validated with existing literature reporting entrainment in steady state visually evoked potentials (SSVEP)—brain oscillations corresponding to periodic visual stimuli recorded via electroencephalography (EEG). Periodic stimulus to the model is provided by: a synthetic spike-train with inter-spike-intervals in the range 10–50 Hz at a resolution of 1 Hz; and spike-train output from a state-of-the-art electronic retina subjected to a light emitting diode flashing at 10, 20, and 40 Hz, simulating real-world visual stimulus to the model. The resolution of simulation is 0.1 ms to ensure solution accuracy for the underlying differential equations defining Izhikevichs neuron model. Under this constraint, 1 s of model simulation time is executed in 10 s real time on SpiNNaker; this is because simulations on SpiNNaker work in real time for time-steps dt ⩾ 1 ms. The model output shows entrainment with both sets of input and contains harmonic components of the fundamental frequency. However, suppressing the feed-forward inhibition in the circuit produces subharmonics within the gamma band (>30 Hz) implying a reduced information transmission fidelity. These model predictions agree with recent lumped-parameter computational model-based predictions, using conventional computers. Scalability of the framework is demonstrated by a multi-node architecture consisting of three “nodes,” where each node is the “basic building block” LGN model. This 420 neuron model is tested with synthetic periodic stimulus at 10 Hz to all the nodes. The model output is the average of the outputs from all nodes, and conforms to the above-mentioned predictions of each node. Power consumption for model simulation on SpiNNaker is ≪1 W.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0454
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017


  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • SpiNNaker machine
  • steady state visually evoked potentials (ssVEP)
  • LGN Interneurons
  • Electronic retina
  • multi-node models
  • sPyNNaker
  • Entrainment


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