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The rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) confronts policy makers with the problem of measuring the effectiveness of containment strategies, balancing public health considerations with the economic costs of social distancing measures. We introduce a modified epidemic model that we name the controlled-SIR model, in which the disease reproduction rate evolves dynamically in response to political and societal reactions. An analytic solution is presented. The model reproduces official COVID-19 cases counts of a large number of regions and countries that surpassed the first peak of the outbreak. A single unbiased feedback parameter is extracted from field data and used to formulate an index that measures the efficiency of containment strategies (the CEI index). CEI values for a range of countries are given. For two variants of the controlled-SIR model, detailed estimates of the total medical and socio-economic costs are evaluated over the entire course of the epidemic. Costs comprise medical care cost, the economic cost of social distancing, as well as the economic value of lives saved. Under plausible parameters, strict measures fare better than a hands-off policy. Strategies based on current case numbers lead to substantially higher total costs than strategies based on the overall history of the epidemic.

Poster presentation: The brain is autonomously active and this self-sustained neural activity is in general modulated, but not driven, by the sensory input data stream [1,2]. Traditionally one has regarded this eigendynamics as resulting from inter-modular recurrent neural activity [3]. Understanding the basic modules for cognitive computation is, in this view, the primary focus of research and the overall neural dynamics would be determined by the the topology of the intermodular pathways. Here we examine an alternative point of view, asking whether certain aspects of the neural eigendynamics have a central functional role for overall cognitive computation [4,5]. Transiently stable neural activity is regularly observed on the cognitive time-scale of 80–100 ms, with indications that neural competition [6] plays an important role in the selection of the transiently stable neural ensembles [7], also denoted winning coalitions [8]. We report on a theory approach which implements these two principles, transient-state dynamics and neural competition, in terms of an associative neural network with clique encoding [9]. A cognitive system [10] with a non-trivial internal eigendynamics has two seemingly contrasting tasks to fulfill. The internal processes need to be regular and not chaotic on one side, but sensitive to the afferent sensory stimuli on the other side. We show, that these two contrasting demands can be reconciled within our approach based on competitive transient-state dynamics, when allowing the sensory stimuli to modulate the competition for the next winning coalition. By testing the system with the bars problem, we find an emerging cognitive capability. Only based on the two basic architectural principles, neural competition and transient-state dynamics, with no explicit algorithmic encoding, the system performs on its own a non-linear independent component analysis of input data stream. The system has rudimentary biological features. All learning is local Hebbian-style, unsupervised and online. It exhibits an ever-ongoing eigendynamics and at no time is the state or the value of synaptic strengths reset or the system restarted; there is no separation between training and performance. We believe that this kind of approach – cognitive computation with autonomously active neural networks – to be an emerging field, relevant both for system neuroscience and synthetic cognitive systems.

Predicting the cumulative medical load of COVID-19 outbreaks after the peak in daily fatalities
(2021)

The distinct ways the COVID-19 pandemic has been unfolding in different countries and regions suggest that local societal and governmental structures play an important role not only for the baseline infection rate, but also for short and long-term reactions to the outbreak. We propose to investigate the question of how societies as a whole, and governments in particular, modulate the dynamics of a novel epidemic using a generalization of the SIR model, the reactive SIR (short-term and long-term reaction) model. We posit that containment measures are equivalent to a feedback between the status of the outbreak and the reproduction factor. Short-term reaction to an outbreak corresponds in this framework to the reaction of governments and individuals to daily cases and fatalities. The reaction to the cumulative number of cases or deaths, and not to daily numbers, is captured in contrast by long-term reaction. We present the exact phase space solution of the controlled SIR model and use it to quantify containment policies for a large number of countries in terms of short and long-term control parameters. We find increased contributions of long-term control for countries and regions in which the outbreak was suppressed substantially together with a strong correlation between the strength of societal and governmental policies and the time needed to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. Furthermore, for numerous countries and regions we identified a predictive relation between the number of fatalities within a fixed period before and after the peak of daily fatality counts, which allows to gauge the cumulative medical load of COVID-19 outbreaks that should be expected after the peak. These results suggest that the proposed model is applicable not only for understanding the outbreak dynamics, but also for predicting future cases and fatalities once the effectiveness of outbreak suppression policies is established with sufficient certainty. Finally, we provide a web app (https://itp.uni-frankfurt.de/covid-19/) with tools for visualising the phase space representation of real-world COVID-19 data and for exporting the preprocessed data for further analysis.

Recurrent cortical networks provide reservoirs of states that are thought to play a crucial role for sequential information processing in the brain. However, classical reservoir computing requires manual adjustments of global network parameters, particularly of the spectral radius of the recurrent synaptic weight matrix. It is hence not clear if the spectral radius is accessible to biological neural networks. Using random matrix theory, we show that the spectral radius is related to local properties of the neuronal dynamics whenever the overall dynamical state is only weakly correlated. This result allows us to introduce two local homeostatic synaptic scaling mechanisms, termed flow control and variance control, that implicitly drive the spectral radius toward the desired value. For both mechanisms the spectral radius is autonomously adapted while the network receives and processes inputs under working conditions. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the two adaptation mechanisms under different external input protocols. Moreover, we evaluated the network performance after adaptation by training the network to perform a time-delayed XOR operation on binary sequences. As our main result, we found that flow control reliably regulates the spectral radius for different types of input statistics. Precise tuning is however negatively affected when interneural correlations are substantial. Furthermore, we found a consistent task performance over a wide range of input strengths/variances. Variance control did however not yield the desired spectral radii with the same precision, being less consistent across different input strengths. Given the effectiveness and remarkably simple mathematical form of flow control, we conclude that self-consistent local control of the spectral radius via an implicit adaptation scheme is an interesting and biological plausible alternative to conventional methods using set point homeostatic feedback controls of neural firing.

An empirical study of the per capita yield of science Nobel prizes : is the US era coming to an end?
(2018)

We point out that the Nobel prize production of the USA, the UK, Germany and France has been in numbers that are large enough to allow for a reliable analysis of the long-term historical developments. Nobel prizes are often split, such that up to three awardees receive a corresponding fractional prize. The historical trends for the fractional number of Nobelists per population are surprisingly robust, indicating in particular that the maximum Nobel productivity peaked in the 1970s for the USA and around 1900 for both France and Germany. The yearly success rates of these three countries are to date of the order of 0.2–0.3 physics, chemistry and medicine laureates per 100 million inhabitants, with the US value being a factor of 2.4 down from the maximum attained in the 1970s. The UK in contrast managed to retain during most of the last century a rate of 0.9–1.0 science Nobel prizes per year and per 100 million inhabitants. For the USA, one finds that the entire history of science Noble prizes is described on a per capita basis to an astonishing accuracy by a single large productivity boost decaying at a continuously accelerating rate since its peak in 1972.

Coupling local, slowly adapting variables to an attractor network allows to destabilize all attractors, turning them into attractor ruins. The resulting attractor relict network may show ongoing autonomous latching dynamics. We propose to use two generating functionals for the construction of attractor relict networks, a Hopfield energy functional generating a neural attractor network and a functional based on information-theoretical principles, encoding the information content of the neural firing statistics, which induces latching transition from one transiently stable attractor ruin to the next. We investigate the influence of stress, in terms of conflicting optimization targets, on the resulting dynamics. Objective function stress is absent when the target level for the mean of neural activities is identical for the two generating functionals and the resulting latching dynamics is then found to be regular. Objective function stress is present when the respective target activity levels differ, inducing intermittent bursting latching dynamics.

For a chaotic system pairs of initially close-by trajectories become eventually fully uncorrelated on the attracting set. This process of decorrelation can split into an initial exponential decrease and a subsequent diffusive process on the chaotic attractor causing the final loss of predictability. Both processes can be either of the same or of very different time scales. In the latter case the two trajectories linger within a finite but small distance (with respect to the overall extent of the attractor) for exceedingly long times and remain partially predictable. Standard tests for chaos widely use inter-orbital correlations as an indicator. However, testing partially predictable chaos yields mostly ambiguous results, as this type of chaos is characterized by attractors of fractally broadened braids. For a resolution we introduce a novel 0-1 indicator for chaos based on the cross-distance scaling of pairs of initially close trajectories. This test robustly discriminates chaos, including partially predictable chaos, from laminar flow. Additionally using the finite time cross-correlation of pairs of initially close trajectories, we are able to identify laminar flow as well as strong and partially predictable chaos in a 0-1 manner solely from the properties of pairs of trajectories.

Self-organized robots may develop attracting states within the sensorimotor loop, that is within the phase space of neural activity, body and environmental variables. Fixpoints, limit cycles and chaotic attractors correspond in this setting to a non-moving robot, to directed, and to irregular locomotion respectively. Short higher-order control commands may hence be used to kick the system from one self-organized attractor robustly into the basin of attraction of a different attractor, a concept termed here as kick control. The individual sensorimotor states serve in this context as highly compliant motor primitives. We study different implementations of kick control for the case of simulated and real-world wheeled robots, for which the dynamics of the distinct wheels is generated independently by local feedback loops. The feedback loops are mediated by rate-encoding neurons disposing exclusively of propriosensoric inputs in terms of projections of the actual rotational angle of the wheel. The changes of the neural activity are then transmitted into a rotational motion by a simulated transmission rod akin to the transmission rods used for steam locomotives. We find that the self-organized attractor landscape may be morphed both by higher-level control signals, in the spirit of kick control, and by interacting with the environment. Bumping against a wall destroys the limit cycle corresponding to forward motion, with the consequence that the dynamical variables are then attracted in phase space by the limit cycle corresponding to backward moving. The robot, which does not dispose of any distance or contact sensors, hence reverses direction autonomously.

Which are the factors underlying human information production on a global level? In order to gain an insight into this question we study a corpus of 252–633 mil. publicly available data files on the Internet corresponding to an overall storage volume of 284–675 Terabytes. Analyzing the file size distribution for several distinct data types we find indications that the neuropsychological capacity of the human brain to process and record information may constitute the dominant limiting factor for the overall growth of globally stored information, with real-world economic constraints having only a negligible influence. This supposition draws support from the observation that the files size distributions follow a power law for data without a time component, like images, and a log-normal distribution for multimedia files, for which time is a defining qualia.
Author summary: The generation of new information is limited by two key factors, by the incurring economic costs and by the capacity of the human brain to process and store data and information; the controlling agent needs to retain an overall understanding even when data is generated by semiautomatic processes. These processes are reflected in the statistical properties of the data files publicly available on the Internet. Collecting a corpus of 252–633 mil. files we find that the statistics of the file size distribution are consistent with the supposition that data production on a global level is shaped and limited by the neuropsychological information processing capacity of the brain, with economic and hardware constraints having a negligible influence.