Brian 2: an intuitive and efficient neural simulator

Stimberg M, Brette R, Goodman DFM
Abstract. To be maximally useful for neuroscience research, neural simulators must make it possible to define original models. This is especially important because a computational experiment might not only need descriptions of neurons and synapses, but also models of interactions with the environment (e.g. muscles), or the environment itself. To preserve high performance when defining new models, current simulators offer two options: low-level programming, or mark-up languages (and other domain specific languages). The first option requires time and expertise, is prone to errors, and contributes to problems with reproducibility and replicability. The second option has limited scope, since it can only describe the range of neural models covered by the ontology. Other aspects of a computational experiment, such as the stimulation protocol, cannot be expressed within this framework. "Brian" 2 is a complete rewrite of Brian that addresses this issue by using runtime code generation with a procedural equation-oriented approach. Brian 2 enables scientists to write code that is particularly simple and concise, closely matching the way they conceptualise their models, while the technique of runtime code generation automatically transforms high level descriptions of models into efficient low level code tailored to different hardware (e.g. CPU or GPU). We illustrate it with several challenging examples: a plastic model of the pyloric network of crustaceans, a closed-loop sensorimotor model, programmatic exploration of a neuron model, and an auditory model with real-time input from a microphone.
Links: Preprint, Preprint (PDF), Code, Documentation, Examples code, Interactive examples, Website
Categories: Brian, Neural simulation, Neuroinformatics, Spiking