[Comp-neuro] Spike-Timing Theory of Working Memory

Eugene Izhikevich Eugene.Izhikevich at braincorporation.com
Thu Sep 2 16:11:26 CEST 2010

A new paper on working memory is available at


Szatmary B. and Izhikevich E.M. (2010) Spike-Timing Theory of Working
Memory. PLoS Comput Biol 6(8): e1000879. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000879


Working memory (WM) is the part of the brain's memory system that provides temporary storage and manipulation of information necessary for cognition. Although WM has limited capacity at any given time, it has vast memory content in the sense that it acts on the brain's nearly infinite repertoire of lifetime long-term memories. Using simulations, we show that large memory content and WM functionality emerge spontaneously if we take the spike-timing nature of neuronal processing into account. Here, memories are represented by extensively overlapping groups of neurons that exhibit stereotypical time-locked spatiotemporal spike-timing patterns, called polychronous patterns; and synapses forming such polychronous neuronal groups (PNGs) are subject to associative synaptic plasticity in the form of both long-term and short-term spike-timing dependent plasticity. While long-term potentiation is essential in PNG formation, we show how short-term plasticity can temporarily strengthen the synapses of selected PNGs and lead to an increase in the spontaneous reactivation rate of these PNGs. This increased reactivation rate, consistent with in vivo recordings during WM tasks, results in high interspike interval variability and irregular, yet systematically changing, elevated firing rate profiles within the neurons of the selected PNGs. Additionally, our theory explains the relationship between such slowly changing firing rates and precisely timed spikes, and it reveals a novel relationship between WM and the perception of time on the order of seconds.

Dr. Eugene M. Izhikevich
Chairman & CEO
Brain Corporation
5665 Morehouse Drive
San Diego, CA, 92121
(858) 683-3402

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