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Front Comput Neurosci. 2012 Nov 12;6:88. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00088. eCollection 2012.

Triphasic spike-timing-dependent plasticity organizes networks to produce robust sequences of neural activity.

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School of Computing, University of Leeds Leeds, UK.


Synfire chains have long been proposed to generate precisely timed sequences of neural activity. Such activity has been linked to numerous neural functions including sensory encoding, cognitive and motor responses. In particular, it has been argued that synfire chains underlie the precise spatiotemporal firing patterns that control song production in a variety of songbirds. Previous studies have suggested that the development of synfire chains requires either initial sparse connectivity or strong topological constraints, in addition to any synaptic learning rules. Here, we show that this necessity can be removed by using a previously reported but hitherto unconsidered spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) rule and activity-dependent excitability. Under this rule the network develops stable synfire chains that possess a non-trivial, scalable multi-layer structure, in which relative layer sizes appear to follow a universal function. Using computational modeling and a coarse grained random walk model, we demonstrate the role of the STDP rule in growing, molding and stabilizing the chain, and link model parameters to the resulting structure.


activity dependent plasticity; computational model; microcircuits; network development; random walk; songbird; synfire chains; zebra finch

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