Sebastian Risi and Kenneth O. Stanley (2012)
A Unified Approach to Evolving Plasticity and Neural Geometry
In: Proceedings of the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN 2012). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2012 (8 pages).

Winner of the Best Student Paper Award at IJCNN-2012


An ambitious long-term goal for neuroevolution, which studies how artificial evolutionary processes can be driven to produce brain-like structures, is to evolve neurocontrollers with a high density of neurons and connections that can adapt and learn from past experience. Yet while neuroevolution has produced successful results in a variety of domains, the scale of natural brains remains far beyond reach. This paper unifies a set of advanced neuroevolution techniques into a new method called adaptive evolvable-substrate HyperNEAT, which is a step toward more biologically-plausible artificial neural networks (ANNs). The combined approach is able to fully determine the geometry, density, and plasticity of an evolving neuromodulated ANN. These complementary capabilities are demonstrated in a maze-learning task based on similar experiments with animals. The most interesting aspect of this investigation is that the emergent neural structures are beginning to acquire more natural properties, which means that neuroevolution can begin to pose new problems and answer deeper questions about how brains evolved that are ultimately relevant to the field of AI as a whole.