Neural Computation Unit (Kenji Doya)

Neural Computation Unit

Professor Kenji Doya

Research Goals

The Neural Computation Unit pursues the dual goals of developing robust and flexible learning algorithms and elucidating the brain’s mechanisms for robust and flexible learning. Our specific focus is on how the brain realizes reinforcement learning, in which an agent, biological or artificial, learns novel behaviors in uncertain environments by exploration and reward feedback. We combine top-down, computational approaches and bottom-up, neurobiological approaches to achieve these goals.

We work on three major subjects:

  • 1) development of a novel computational framework for system identification of biological networks;
  • 2) neurobiological experiments to study the dynamic functions of neuromodulators in regulating adaptive behaviors;
  • 3) robotic experiments to explore adaptive mechanisms necessary for survival and reproduction in dynamic environments.

By combining theoretical, biological, and engineering approaches, the research shall produce novel software tools for dynamic modeling, highly adaptive robots with emotion-like regulatory functions, and new approaches to therapy and prevention of psychiatric disorders.

Research Positions

We are looking for a postdoctoral scholar or staff scientist who aspire to understand how the brain works and to create autonomous adaptive agents. We specifically invite applications to the following research topics:

  1. Theory of goal-directed, multi-layer representation learning and its application to robotics as well as understanding of cortical and subcortical neural representations.
  2. Theory of self-organization of heterogeneous learning modules for task demands and the mechanisms of communication and collaboration of multiple brain areas.
  3. Construction of data-driven spiking neuron models of the basal ganglia for reinforcement learning and large-scale simulation on the supercomputer "K".
  4. Development of distributed reinforcement learning frameworks for optimization of communication and energy efficiency for the networks of computers and things.

Applicants should send a CV, research statement, and the names and e-mail addresses of three referees to ncus (at) with a header: Research Position at Neural Computation Unit, OIST.