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Robert C Cannon

Textensor Limited
37 McDonald Road
Textensor Research Group
Robert Cannon is a co-founder of Textensor, providers of this site. He studied maths and astrophysics before moving to research in neuroscience and computing. He is also interested in biological modelling including Catacomb and pSICS, the open-source stochastic simulation software being developed by Textensor for Edinburgh University.

Journal articles

Rodrigo F Oliveira, Anna Terrin, Giulietta Di Benedetto, Robert C Cannon, Wonryull Koh, Myungsook Kim, Manuela Zaccolo, Kim T Blackwell (2010)  The Role of Type 4 Phosphodiesterases in Generating Microdomains of cAMP: Large Scale Stochastic Simulations.   PLoS One 5: 7. 07  
Abstract: Cyclic AMP (cAMP) and its main effector Protein Kinase A (PKA) are critical for several aspects of neuronal function including synaptic plasticity. Specificity of synaptic plasticity requires that cAMP activates PKA in a highly localized manner despite the speed with which cAMP diffuses. Two mechanisms have been proposed to produce localized elevations in cAMP, known as microdomains: impeded diffusion, and high phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity. This paper investigates the mechanism of localized cAMP signaling using a computational model of the biochemical network in the HEK293 cell, which is a subset of pathways involved in PKA-dependent synaptic plasticity. This biochemical network includes cAMP production, PKA activation, and cAMP degradation by PDE activity. The model is implemented in NeuroRD: novel, computationally efficient, stochastic reaction-diffusion software, and is constrained by intracellular cAMP dynamics that were determined experimentally by real-time imaging using an Epac-based FRET sensor (H30). The model reproduces the high concentration cAMP microdomain in the submembrane region, distinct from the lower concentration of cAMP in the cytosol. Simulations further demonstrate that generation of the cAMP microdomain requires a pool of PDE4D anchored in the cytosol and also requires PKA-mediated phosphorylation of PDE4D which increases its activity. The microdomain does not require impeded diffusion of cAMP, confirming that barriers are not required for microdomains. The simulations reported here further demonstrate the utility of the new stochastic reaction-diffusion algorithm for exploring signaling pathways in spatially complex structures such as neurons.
Padraig Gleeson, Sharon Crook, Robert C Cannon, Michael L Hines, Guy O Billings, Matteo Farinella, Thomas M Morse, Andrew P Davison, Subhasis Ray, Upinder S Bhalla, Simon R Barnes, Yoana D Dimitrova, R Angus Silver (2010)  NeuroML: a language for describing data driven models of neurons and networks with a high degree of biological detail.   PLoS Comput Biol 6: 6. 06  
Abstract: Biologically detailed single neuron and network models are important for understanding how ion channels, synapses and anatomical connectivity underlie the complex electrical behavior of the brain. While neuronal simulators such as NEURON, GENESIS, MOOSE, NEST, and PSICS facilitate the development of these data-driven neuronal models, the specialized languages they employ are generally not interoperable, limiting model accessibility and preventing reuse of model components and cross-simulator validation. To overcome these problems we have used an Open Source software approach to develop NeuroML, a neuronal model description language based on XML (Extensible Markup Language). This enables these detailed models and their components to be defined in a standalone form, allowing them to be used across multiple simulators and archived in a standardized format. Here we describe the structure of NeuroML and demonstrate its scope by converting into NeuroML models of a number of different voltage- and ligand-gated conductances, models of electrical coupling, synaptic transmission and short-term plasticity, together with morphologically detailed models of individual neurons. We have also used these NeuroML-based components to develop an highly detailed cortical network model. NeuroML-based model descriptions were validated by demonstrating similar model behavior across five independently developed simulators. Although our results confirm that simulations run on different simulators converge, they reveal limits to model interoperability, by showing that for some models convergence only occurs at high levels of spatial and temporal discretisation, when the computational overhead is high. Our development of NeuroML as a common description language for biophysically detailed neuronal and network models enables interoperability across multiple simulation environments, thereby improving model transparency, accessibility and reuse in computational neuroscience.
R C Cannon, M ­O Gewaltig, P Gleeson, U S Bhalla, H Cornelis, M L Hines, F W Howell, E Muller, J R Stiles, S Wils, E de Schutter (2007)  Interoperability of neuroscience modeling software: current status and future directions.   Neuroinformatics 5: (in press)  
Abstract: Neuroscience increasingly uses computational models to assist in the exploration and interpretation of complex phenomena. As a result, considerable effort is invested in the development of software tools and technologies for numerical simulations and for the creation and publication of models. The diversity of related tools leads to the duplication of effort and hinders model reuse. Development practices and technologies that support interoperability between software systems therefore play an important role in making the modeling process more efficient and in ensuring that published models can be reliably and easily reused. Various forms of interoperability are possible including the development of portable model description standards, the adoption of common simulation languages or the use of standardized middleware. Each of these approaches finds applications within the broad range of current modeling activity. However more effort is required in many areas to enable new scientific questions to be addressed. Here we present the conclusions of the "Neuro­IT Interoperability of Simulators" workshop, held at the 11th computational neuroscience meeting in Edinburgh (July 19/­20 2006; We assess the current state of interoperability of neural simulation software and explore the future directions that will enable the field to advance.
Robert C Cannon, Giampaolo D’Alessandro (2006)  The ion channel inverse problem: neuroinformatics meets biophysics.   PLoS Comput Biol 2: 8. Aug  
Abstract: Ion channels are the building blocks of the information processing capability of neurons: any realistic computational model of a neuron must include reliable and effective ion channel components. Sophisticated statistical and computational tools have been developed to study the ion channel structure-function relationship, but this work is rarely incorporated into the models used for single neurons or small networks. The disjunction is partly a matter of convention. Structure-function studies typically use a single Markov model for the whole channel whereas until recently whole-cell modeling software has focused on serial, independent, two-state subunits that can be represented by the Hodgkin-Huxley equations. More fundamentally, there is a difference in purpose that prevents models being easily reused. Biophysical models are typically developed to study one particular aspect of channel gating in detail, whereas neural modelers require broad coverage of the entire range of channel behavior that is often best achieved with approximate representations that omit structural features that cannot be adequately constrained. To bridge the gap so that more recent channel data can be used in neural models requires new computational infrastructure for bringing together diverse sources of data to arrive at best-fit models for whole-cell modeling. We review the current state of channel modeling and explore the developments needed for its conclusions to be integrated into whole-cell modeling.
Robert C Cannon, Michael E Hasselmo, Randal A Koene (2003)  From biophysics to behavior: Catacomb2 and the design of biologically-plausible models for spatial navigation.   Neuroinformatics 1: 1. 3-42  
Abstract: A variety of approaches are available for using computational models to help understand neural processes over many levels of description, from sub-cellular processes to behavior. Alongside purely deductive bottom-up or top-down modeling, a systems design strategy has the advantage of providing a clear goal for the behavior of a complex model. The order in which biological details are added is dictated by functional requirements in terms of the tasks that the model should perform. Ideas from engineering can be mixed with those from biology to build systems in which some constituents are modeled in detail using biologically-realistic components, while others are implemented directly in software. This allows the areas of most interest to be studied within the context of a behaving system in which each component is constrained both by the biology it is intended to represent as well as the task it is required to perform within the system. The Catacomb2 modeling package has been developed to allow rapid and flexible design and study of complex multi-level systems ranging in scale from ion channels to whole animal behavior. The methodology, internal architecture, and capabilities of the system are described. Its use is illustrated by a modeling case study in which hypotheses about how parahippocampal and hippocampal structures may be involved in spatial navigation tasks are implemented in a model of a virtual rat navigating through a virtual environment in search of a food reward. The model incorporates theta oscillations to separate encoding from retrieval and yields testable predictions about the phase relations of spiking activity to theta oscillations in different parts of the hippocampal formation at various stages of the behavioral task.
Nigel H Goddard, Robert C Cannon, Fred W Howell (2003)  Axiope tools for data management and data sharing.   Neuroinformatics 1: 3. 271-284  
Abstract: Many areas of biological research generate large volumes of very diverse data. Managing this data can be a difficult and time-consuming process, particularly in an academic environment where there are very limited resources for IT support staff such as database administrators. The most economical and efficient solutions are those that enable scientists with minimal IT expertise to control and operate their own desktop systems. Axiope provides one such solution, Catalyzer, which acts as flexible cataloging system for creating structured records describing digital resources. The user is able specify both the content and structure of the information included in the catalog. Information and resources can be shared by a variety of means, including automatically generated sets of web pages. Federation and integration of this information, where needed, is handled by Axiope's Mercat server. Where there is a need for standardization or compatibility of the structures usedby different researchers this canbe achieved later by applying user-defined mappings in Mercat. In this way, large-scale data sharing can be achieved without imposing unnecessary constraints or interfering with the way in which individual scientists choose to record and catalog their work. We summarize the key technical issues involved in scientific data management and data sharing, describe the main features and functionality of Axiope Catalyzer and Axiope Mercat, and discuss future directions and requirements for an information infrastructure to support large-scale data sharing and scientific collaboration.
Randal A Koene, Anatoli Gorchetchnikov, Robert C Cannon, Michael E Hasselmo (2003)  Modeling goal-directed spatial navigation in the rat based on physiological data from the hippocampal formation.   Neural Netw 16: 5-6. 577-584 Jun/Jul  
Abstract: We investigated the importance of hippocampal theta oscillations and the significance of phase differences of theta modulation in the cortical regions that are involved in goal-directed spatial navigation. Our models used representations of entorhinal cortex layer III (ECIII), hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) to guide movements of a virtual rat in a virtual environment. The model encoded representations of the environment through long-term potentiation of excitatory recurrent connections between sequentially spiking place cells in ECIII and CA3. This encoding required buffering of place cell activity, which was achieved by a short-term memory (STM) in EC that was regulated by theta modulation and allowed synchronized reactivation with encoding phases in ECIII and CA3. Inhibition at a specific theta phase deactivated the oldest item in the buffer when new input was presented to a full STM buffer. A 180 degrees phase difference separated retrieval and encoding in ECIII and CA3, which enabled us to simulate data on theta phase precession of place cells. Retrieval of known paths was elicited in ECIII by input at the retrieval phase from PFC working memory for goal location, requiring strict theta phase relationships with PFC. Known locations adjacent to the virtual rat were retrieved in CA3. Together, input from ECIII and CA3 activated predictive spiking in cells in CA1 for the next desired place on a shortest path to a goal. Consistent with data, place cell activity in CA1 and CA3 showed smaller place fields than in ECIII.
R C Cannon, F W Howell, N H Goddard, E de Schutter (2002)  Non-curated distributed databases for experimental data and models in neuroscience   Networl: Computation in Neural Systems 13: 3. 415-428  
Abstract: Neuroscience is generating vast amounts of highly diverse data which is of potential interest to researchers beyond the laboratories in which it is collected. In particular, quantitative neuroanatomical data is relevant to a wide variety of areas, including studies of development, aging, pathology and in biophysically oriented computational modelling. Moreover, the relatively discrete and well-defined nature of the data make it an ideal application for developing systems designed to facilitate data archiving, sharing and reuse. At present, the only widely used forms of dissemination are figures and tables in published papers which suffer from inaccessibility and the loss of machine readability. They may also present only an averaged or otherwise selected subset of the available data. Numerous database projects are in progress to address these shortcomings. They employ a variety of architectures and philosophies, each with its own merits and disadvantages. One axis on which they may be distinguished is the degree of top-down control, or curation, involved in data entry. Here we consider one extreme of this scale in which there is no curation, minimal standardization and a wide degree of freedom in the form of records used to document data. Such a scheme has advantages in the ease of database creation and in the equitable assignment of perceived intellectual property by keeping the control of data in the hands of the experts who collected it. It does, however, require a more sophisticated infrastructure than conventional databases since the software must be capable of organizing diverse and differently documented data sets in an effective way. Several components of a software system to provide this infrastructure are now in place. Examples are presented, showing how these tools can be used to archive and publish neuronal morphology data, and how they can give an integrated view of data stored at many different sites.
X Leinekujel, R Khazipov, R C Cannon, H Hirase, Y Ben-Ari, G Buzsaki (2002)  Correlated bursts of activity in the neonatal hippocampus in vivo   Science 295: 5575. 2049-2052  
Abstract: The behavior of immature cortical networks in vivo remains largely unknown. Using multisite extracellular and patch-clamp recordings, we observed recurrent bursts of synchronized neuronal activity lasting 0.5 to 3 seconds that occurred spontaneously in the hippocampus of freely moving and anesthetized rat pups. The influence of slow rhythms (0.33 and 0.1 hertz) and the contribution of both gamma -aminobutyric acid A-mediated and glutamate receptor-mediated synaptic signals in the generation of hippocampal bursts was reminiscent of giant depolarizing potentials observed in vitro. This earliest pattern, which diversifies during the second postnatal week, could provide correlated activity for immature neurons and may underlie activity-dependent maturation of the hippocampal network.
R C Cannon, D A Turner, G Papyali, H V Wheal (1998)  An on-line archive of reconstructed hippocampal neurons   Journal of Neuroscience Methods 84: 1-2. 49-54  
Notes: A copy of the original site is archived at

Conference papers



Robert C Cannon, Fred W Howell (2007)  Enhancing documents with annotations and machine-readable structured information using Notate   White Paper  
Abstract: Textensor Limited is developing tools for improving the communication and exploitation of text based information. Our main product, Notate, is a web based system that enables authors and readers to layer structured annotations on top of documents so that the resulting combination can be reliably processed automatically while maintaining the integrity of the original source and the provenance of all annotations. The system has a wide variety of applications including attaching sticky notes and discussions to web pages, sharing documents and notes within a small group, on-line document review and sophisticated data curation tasks. It aims to bring the authoring of semantically rich structures within the capabilities of normal users, making it dramatically easier to produce well-structured content and opening up possibilities for further automated processes such as creating indexes to the research literature and curating more high-quality information into databases. The initial requirements and example applications are taken from the needs of the biomedical research community, but the core technology is not domain specific and has similar applications in other fields that deal with large volumes of documents containing complex and interlinked information.
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