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Know thy neighbour: A normative theory of synaptic depression

Pfister, J-P; Lengyel, M; Dayan, P; (2009) Know thy neighbour: A normative theory of synaptic depression. Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 - Proceedings of the 2009 Conference 1464 - 1472.

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Synapses exhibit an extraordinary degree of short-term malleability, with release probabilities and effective synaptic strengths changing markedly over multiple timescales. From the perspective of a fixed computational operation in a network, this seems like a most unacceptable degree of added variability. We suggest an alternative theory according to which short-term synaptic plasticity plays a normatively-justifiable role. This theory starts from the commonplace observation that the spiking of a neuron is an incomplete, digital, report of the analog quantity that contains all the critical information, namely its membrane potential. We suggest that a synapse solves the inverse problem of estimating the pre-synaptic membrane potential from the spikes it receives, acting as a recursive filter. We show that the dynamics of short-term synaptic depression closely resemble those required for optimal filtering, and that they indeed support high quality estimation. Under this account, the local postsynaptic potential and the level of synaptic resources track the (scaled) mean and variance of the estimated presynaptic membrane potential. We make experimentally testable predictions for how the statistics of subthreshold membrane potential fluctuations and the form of spiking non-linearity should be related to the properties of short-term plasticity in any particular cell type.

Type: Article
Title: Know thy neighbour: A normative theory of synaptic depression
UCL classification: UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1345834
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