A theory of loop formation and elimination by spike timing-dependent plasticity

Front Neural Circuits. 2010 Mar 10;4:7. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2010.00007. eCollection 2010.


We show that the local spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) rule has the effect of regulating the trans-synaptic weights of loops of any length within a simulated network of neurons. We show that depending on STDP's polarity, functional loops are formed or eliminated in networks driven to normal spiking conditions by random, partially correlated inputs, where functional loops comprise synaptic weights that exceed a positive threshold. We further prove that STDP is a form of loop-regulating plasticity for the case of a linear network driven by noise. Thus a notable local synaptic learning rule makes a specific prediction about synapses in the brain in which standard STDP is present: that under normal spiking conditions, they should participate in predominantly feed-forward connections at all scales. Our model implies that any deviations from this prediction would require a substantial modification to the hypothesized role for standard STDP. Given its widespread occurrence in the brain, we predict that STDP could also regulate long range functional loops among individual neurons across all brain scales, up to, and including, the scale of global brain network topology.

Keywords: STDP; microcircuitry; neocortex; network; neuromodulation; striatum; synfire; topology.