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Concept: Operations research


Optimality theory predicts the maximization of productivity in social insect colonies, but many inactive workers are found in ant colonies. Indeed, the low short-term productivity of ant colonies is often the consequence of high variation among workers in the threshold to respond to task-related stimuli. Why is such an inefficient strategy among colonies maintained by natural selection? Here, we show that inactive workers are necessary for the long-term sustainability of a colony. Our simulation shows that colonies with variable thresholds persist longer than those with invariable thresholds because inactive workers perform the critical function of replacing active workers when they become fatigued. Evidence of the replacement of active workers by inactive workers has been found in ant colonies. Thus, the presence of inactive workers increases the long-term persistence of the colony at the expense of decreasing short-term productivity. Inactive workers may represent a bet-hedging strategy in response to environmental stochasticity.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Operations research, Ant, Hymenoptera, Termite


Many choice situations require imagining potential outcomes, a capacity that was shown to involve memory brain regions such as the hippocampus. We reasoned that the quality of hippocampus-mediated simulation might therefore condition the subjective value assigned to imagined outcomes. We developed a novel paradigm to assess the impact of hippocampus structure and function on the propensity to favor imagined outcomes in the context of intertemporal choices. The ecological condition opposed immediate options presented as pictures (hence directly observable) to delayed options presented as texts (hence requiring mental stimulation). To avoid confounding simulation process with delay discounting, we compared this ecological condition to control conditions using the same temporal labels while keeping constant the presentation mode. Behavioral data showed that participants who imagined future options with greater details rated them as more likeable. Functional MRI data confirmed that hippocampus activity could account for subjects assigning higher values to simulated options. Structural MRI data suggested that grey matter density was a significant predictor of hippocampus activation, and therefore of the propensity to favor simulated options. Conversely, patients with hippocampus atrophy due to Alzheimer’s disease, but not patients with Fronto-Temporal Dementia, were less inclined to favor options that required mental simulation. We conclude that hippocampus-mediated simulation plays a critical role in providing the motivation to pursue goals that are not present to our senses.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Brain, Epistemology, Memory, Dementia, Operations research, Futures contract, Semantic memory


Myxococcus xanthus cells self-organize into periodic bands of traveling waves, termed ripples, during multicellular fruiting body development and predation on other bacteria. To investigate the mechanistic basis of rippling behavior and its physiological role during predation by this Gram-negative soil bacterium, we have used an approach that combines mathematical modeling with experimental observations. Specifically, we developed an agent-based model (ABM) to simulate rippling behavior that employs a new signaling mechanism to trigger cellular reversals. The ABM has demonstrated that three ingredients are sufficient to generate rippling behavior: (i) side-to-side signaling between two cells that causes one of the cells to reverse, (ii) a minimal refractory time period after each reversal during which cells cannot reverse again, and (iii) physical interactions that cause the cells to locally align. To explain why rippling behavior appears as a consequence of the presence of prey, we postulate that prey-associated macromolecules indirectly induce ripples by stimulating side-to-side contact-mediated signaling. In parallel to the simulations, M. xanthus predatory rippling behavior was experimentally observed and analyzed using time-lapse microscopy. A formalized relationship between the wavelength, reversal time, and cell velocity has been predicted by the simulations and confirmed by the experimental data. Furthermore, the results suggest that the physiological role of rippling behavior during M. xanthus predation is to increase the rate of spreading over prey cells due to increased side-to-side contact-mediated signaling and to allow predatory cells to remain on the prey longer as a result of more periodic cell motility.

Concepts: Bacteria, Causality, Predation, Simulation, Operations research, Mathematical model, Biological pest control


Computational Neuroscience is an emerging field that provides unique opportunities to study complex brain structures through realistic neural simulations. However, as biological details are added to models, the execution time for the simulation becomes longer. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are now being utilized to accelerate simulations due to their ability to perform computations in parallel. As such, they have shown significant improvement in execution time compared to Central Processing Units (CPUs). Most neural simulators utilize either multiple CPUs or a single GPU for better performance, but still show limitations in execution time when biological details are not sacrificed. Therefore, we present a novel CPU/GPU simulation environment for large-scale biological networks, the NeoCortical Simulator version 6 (NCS6). NCS6 is a free, open-source, parallelizable, and scalable simulator, designed to run on clusters of multiple machines, potentially with high performance computing devices in each of them. It has built-in leaky-integrate-and-fire (LIF) and Izhikevich (IZH) neuron models, but users also have the capability to design their own plug-in interface for different neuron types as desired. NCS6 is currently able to simulate one million cells and 100 million synapses in quasi real time by distributing data across eight machines with each having two video cards.

Concepts: Brain, Simulation, Operations research, Parallel computing, Computer graphics, Computer, Simulation123, Computer simulation


Power and performance management problem in large scale computing systems like data centers has attracted a lot of interests from both enterprises and academic researchers as power saving has become more and more important in many fields. Because of the multiple objectives, multiple influential factors and hierarchical structure in the system, the problem is indeed complex and hard. In this paper, the problem will be investigated in a virtualized computing system. Specifically, it is formulated as a power optimization problem with some constraints on performance. Then, the adaptive controller based on least-square self-tuning regulator(LS-STR) is designed to track performance in the first step; and the resource solved by the controller is allocated in order to minimize the power consumption as the second step. Some simulations are designed to test the effectiveness of this method and to compare it with some other controllers. The simulation results show that the adaptive controller is generally effective: it is applicable for different performance metrics, for different workloads, and for single and multiple workloads; it can track the performance requirement effectively and save the power consumption significantly.

Concepts: Structure, Effectiveness, Hierarchy, Simulation, Operations research, Optimization, Controllers, Power


We present an agent-based model (ABM) to simulate a hepatic inflammatory response (HIR) in a mouse infected by Salmonella that sometimes progressed to problematic proportions, known as “sepsis”. Based on over 200 published studies, this ABM describes interactions among 21 cells or cytokines and incorporates 226 experimental data sets and/or data estimates from those reports to simulate a mouse HIR in silico. Our simulated results reproduced dynamic patterns of HIR reported in the literature. As shown in vivo, our model also demonstrated that sepsis was highly related to the initial Salmonella dose and the presence of components of the adaptive immune system. We determined that high mobility group box-1, C-reactive protein, and the interleukin-10: tumor necrosis factor-α ratio, and CD4+ T cell: CD8+ T cell ratio, all recognized as biomarkers during HIR, significantly correlated with outcomes of HIR. During therapy-directed silico simulations, our results demonstrated that anti-agent intervention impacted the survival rates of septic individuals in a time-dependent manner. By specifying the infected species, source of infection, and site of infection, this ABM enabled us to reproduce the kinetics of several essential indicators during a HIR, observe distinct dynamic patterns that are manifested during HIR, and allowed us to test proposed therapy-directed treatments. Although limitation still exists, this ABM is a step forward because it links underlying biological processes to computational simulation and was validated through a series of comparisons between the simulated results and experimental studies.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Infection, Adaptive immune system, Simulation, Operations research, Computational sociology, AnyLogic


Computer modeling, simulation and optimization are powerful tools that have seen increased use in biomechanics research. Dynamic optimizations can be categorized as either data-tracking or predictive problems. The data-tracking approach has been used extensively to address human movement problems of clinical relevance. The predictive approach also holds great promise, but has seen limited use in clinical applications. Enhanced software tools would facilitate the application of predictive musculoskeletal simulations to clinically-relevant research. The open-source software OpenSim provides tools for generating tracking simulations but not predictive simulations. However, OpenSim includes an extensive application programming interface that permits extending its capabilities with scripting languages such as MATLAB. In the work presented here, we combine the computational tools provided by MATLAB with the musculoskeletal modeling capabilities of OpenSim to create a framework for generating predictive simulations of musculoskeletal movement based on direct collocation optimal control techniques. In many cases, the direct collocation approach can be used to solve optimal control problems considerably faster than traditional shooting methods. Cyclical and discrete movement problems were solved using a simple 1 degree of freedom musculoskeletal model and a model of the human lower limb, respectively. The problems could be solved in reasonable amounts of time (several seconds to 1-2 hours) using the open-source IPOPT solver. The problems could also be solved using the fmincon solver that is included with MATLAB, but the computation times were excessively long for all but the smallest of problems. The performance advantage for IPOPT was derived primarily by exploiting sparsity in the constraints Jacobian. The framework presented here provides a powerful and flexible approach for generating optimal control simulations of musculoskeletal movement using OpenSim and MATLAB. This should allow researchers to more readily use predictive simulation as a tool to address clinical conditions that limit human mobility.

Concepts: Operations research, Computer program, Computer simulation, Optimization, Mathematical model, Application programming interface, Optimal control, How to Solve It


In this study, the siderophore-producing characteristics and conditions of Bacillus sp. PZ-1 were investigated and the enhancement of siderophores on Pb uptake and translocation in Brassica juncea were determined. Results of single factor experiment showed that glucose, pH and Pb(NO3)2 could stimulate PZ-1 growth and siderophore production. The maximum siderophore production of 90.52% siderophore units was obtained by response surface methodology optimization at glucose concentration of 21.84 g/l, pH 6.18 and Pb(NO3)2 concentration of 245.04 μmol/l. The type of siderophore was hydroxamate and its concentration in the fermentation broth amounted to 32.24 μg/ml. Results of pot experiment indicated that the siderophores enhanced Brassica juncea to assimilate more Pb from soil with the uptake ratio from 1.04 to 2.74 and translocate more Pb from underground to overground with the TF values from 1.21 to 1.48. The results revealed that Bacillus sp. PZ-1 could produce abundant siderophores and might be potentially used to augment the phytoextraction of Pb from soil.

Concepts: Enzyme, Operations research, Response surface methodology, Mathematical optimization, Hydroxamic acid, Phytoremediation, Brassica juncea, Siderophore


The underwater acoustic sensor network (UWASN) is a system that exchanges data between numerous sensor nodes deployed in the sea. The UWASN uses an underwater acoustic communication technique to exchange data. Therefore, it is important to design a robust system that will function even in severely fluctuating underwater communication conditions, along with variations in the ocean environment. In this paper, a new algorithm to find the optimal deployment positions of underwater sensor nodes is proposed. The algorithm uses the communication performance surface, which is a map showing the underwater acoustic communication performance of a targeted area. A virtual force-particle swarm optimization algorithm is then used as an optimization technique to find the optimal deployment positions of the sensor nodes, using the performance surface information to estimate the communication radii of the sensor nodes in each generation. The algorithm is evaluated by comparing simulation results between two different seasons (summer and winter) for an area located off the eastern coast of Korea as the selected targeted area.

Concepts: Operations research, Optimization, Ocean, Particle swarm optimization, Algorithmic efficiency, Exchange, Microsoft Exchange Server, Underwater acoustic communication


The emergence of smart devices and smart appliances has highly favored the realization of the smart home concept. Modern smart home systems handle a wide range of user requirements. Energy management and energy conservation are in the spotlight when deploying sophisticated smart homes. However, the performance of energy management systems is highly influenced by user behaviors and adopted energy management approaches. Appliance scheduling is widely accepted as an effective mechanism to manage domestic energy consumption. Hence, we propose a smart home energy management system that reduces unnecessary energy consumption by integrating an automated switching off system with load balancing and appliance scheduling algorithm. The load balancing scheme acts according to defined constraints such that the cumulative energy consumption of the household is managed below the defined maximum threshold. The scheduling of appliances adheres to the least slack time (LST) algorithm while considering user comfort during scheduling. The performance of the proposed scheme has been evaluated against an existing energy management scheme through computer simulation. The simulation results have revealed a significant improvement gained through the proposed LST-based energy management scheme in terms of cost of energy, along with reduced domestic energy consumption facilitated by an automated switching off mechanism.

Concepts: Operations research, Planning, Energy conservation, Load balancing, Scheduling algorithm, Energy management system, Least slack time scheduling, Processor affinity