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Role of the site of synaptic competition and the balance of learning forces for Hebbian encoding of probabilistic Markov sequences

Role of the site of synaptic competition and the balance of learning forces for Hebbian encoding of probabilistic Markov sequences

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 9: 92

The majority of distinct sensory and motor events occur as temporally ordered sequences with rich probabilistic structure. Sequences can be characterized by the probability of transitioning from the current state to upcoming states (forward probability), as well as the probability of having transitioned to the current state from previous states (backward probability). Despite the prevalence of probabilistic sequencing of both sensory and motor events, the Hebbian mechanisms that mold synapses to reflect the statistics of experienced probabilistic sequences are not well understood. Here, we show through analytic calculations and numerical simulations that Hebbian plasticity (correlation, covariance, and STDP) with pre-synaptic competition can develop synaptic weights equal to the conditional forward transition probabilities present in the input sequence. In contrast, post-synaptic competition can develop synaptic weights proportional to the conditional backward probabilities of the same input sequence. We demonstrate that to stably reflect the conditional probability of a neuron's inputs and outputs, local Hebbian plasticity requires balance between competitive learning forces that promote synaptic differentiation and homogenizing learning forces that promote synaptic stabilization. The balance between these forces dictates a prior over the distribution of learned synaptic weights, strongly influencing both the rate at which structure emerges and the entropy of the final distribution of synaptic weights. Together, these results demonstrate a simple correspondence between the biophysical organization of neurons, the site of synaptic competition, and the temporal flow of information encoded in synaptic weights by Hebbian plasticity while highlighting the utility of balancing learning forces to accurately encode probability distributions, and prior expectations over such probability distributions.

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Accession: 058791493

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PMID: 26257637

DOI: 10.3389/fncom.2015.00092

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