Bayesian reconstruction of memories stored in neural networks from their connectivity


The advent of comprehensive synaptic wiring diagrams of large neural circuits has created the field of connectomics and given rise to a number of open research questions. One such question is whether it is possible to reconstruct the information stored in a recurrent network of neurons, given its synaptic connectivity matrix. Here, we address this question by determining when solving such an inference problem is theoretically possible in specific attractor network models and by providing a practical algorithm to do so. The algorithm builds on ideas from statistical physics to perform approximate Bayesian inference and is amenable to exact analysis. We study its performance on three different models and explore the limitations of reconstructing stored patterns from synaptic connectivity.







Nicolas Brunel

Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience

We use theoretical models of brain systems to investigate how they process and learn information from their inputs. Our current work focuses on the mechanisms of learning and memory, from the synapse to the network level, in collaboration with various experimental groups. Using methods from
statistical physics, we have shown recently that the synaptic
connectivity of a network that maximizes storage capacity reproduces
two key experimentally observed features: low connection probability
and strong overrepresentation of bidirectionnally connected pairs of
neurons. We have also inferred `synaptic plasticity rules' (a
mathematical description of how synaptic strength depends on the
activity of pre and post-synaptic neurons) from data, and shown that
networks endowed with a plasticity rule inferred from data have a
storage capacity that is close to the optimal bound.

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