Spikes, synchrony, and attentive learning by laminar thalamocortical circuits

Brain Res. 2008 Jul 7;1218:278-312. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.04.024. Epub 2008 Apr 22.


This article develops the Synchronous Matching Adaptive Resonance Theory (SMART) neural model to explain how the brain may coordinate multiple levels of thalamocortical and corticocortical processing to rapidly learn, and stably remember, important information about a changing world. The model clarifies how bottom-up and top-down processes work together to realize this goal, notably how processes of learning, expectation, attention, resonance, and synchrony are coordinated. The model hereby clarifies, for the first time, how the following levels of brain organization coexist to realize cognitive processing properties that regulate fast learning and stable memory of brain representations: single-cell properties, such as spiking dynamics, spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), and acetylcholine modulation; detailed laminar thalamic and cortical circuit designs and their interactions; aggregate cell recordings, such as current source densities and local field potentials; and single-cell and large-scale inter-areal oscillations in the gamma and beta frequency domains. In particular, the model predicts how laminar circuits of multiple cortical areas interact with primary and higher-order specific thalamic nuclei and nonspecific thalamic nuclei to carry out attentive visual learning and information processing. The model simulates how synchronization of neuronal spiking occurs within and across brain regions, and triggers STDP. Matches between bottom-up adaptively filtered input patterns and learned top-down expectations cause gamma oscillations that support attention, resonance, learning, and consciousness. Mismatches inhibit learning while causing beta oscillations during reset and hypothesis testing operations that are initiated in the deeper cortical layers. The generality of learned recognition codes is controlled by a vigilance process mediated by acetylcholine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Thalamus / physiology