Modulation of network excitability by persistent activity: how working memory affects the response to incoming stimuli.

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Persistent activity and match effects are widely regarded as neuronal correlates of short-term storage and manipulation of information, with the first serving active maintenance and the latter supporting the comparison between memory contents and incoming sensory information. The mechanistic and functional relationship between these two basic neurophysiological signatures of working memory remains elusive. We propose that match signals are generated as a result of transient changes in local network excitability brought about by persistent activity. Neurons more active will be more excitable, and thus more responsive to external inputs. Accordingly, network responses are jointly determined by the incoming stimulus and the ongoing pattern of persistent activity. Using a spiking model network, we show that this mechanism is able to reproduce most of the experimental phenomenology of match effects as exposed by single-cell recordings during delayed-response tasks. The model provides a unified, parsimonious mechanistic account of the main neuronal correlates of working memory, makes several experimentally testable predictions, and demonstrates a new functional role for persistent activity.





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Tartaglia, Elisa M, Nicolas Brunel and Gianluigi Mongillo (2015). Modulation of network excitability by persistent activity: how working memory affects the response to incoming stimuli. PLoS Comput Biol, 11(2). p. e1004059. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004059 Retrieved from

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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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