A working memory model for serial order that stores information in the intrinsic excitability properties of neurons

J Comput Neurosci. 2013 Oct;35(2):187-99. doi: 10.1007/s10827-013-0447-7. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


Models for temporary information storage in neuronal populations are dominated by mechanisms directly dependent on synaptic plasticity. There are nevertheless other mechanisms available that are well suited for creating short-term memories. Here we present a model for working memory which relies on the modulation of the intrinsic excitability properties of neurons, instead of synaptic plasticity, to retain novel information for periods of seconds to minutes. We show that it is possible to effectively use this mechanism to store the serial order in a sequence of patterns of activity. For this we introduce a functional class of neurons, named gate interneurons, which can store information in their membrane dynamics and can literally act as gates routing the flow of activations in the principal neurons population. The presented model exhibits properties which are in close agreement with experimental results in working memory. Namely, the recall process plays an important role in stabilizing and prolonging the memory trace. This means that the stored information is correctly maintained as long as it is being used. Moreover, the working memory model is adequate for storing completely new information, in time windows compatible with the notion of "one-shot" learning (hundreds of milliseconds).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Computer Systems
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Sodium Channels / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Calcium Channels
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sodium Channels
  • Calcium