Biological neural networks are shaped by a large number of plasticity mechanisms operating at different time scales. How these mechanisms work together to sculpt such networks into effective information processing circuits is still poorly understood. Here we study the spontaneous development of synfire chains in a self-organizing recurrent neural network (SORN) model that combines a number of different plasticity mechanisms including spike-timing-dependent plasticity, structural plasticity, as well as homeostatic forms of plasticity. We find that the network develops an abundance of feed-forward motifs giving rise to synfire chains. The chains develop into ring-like structures, which we refer to as "synfire rings." These rings emerge spontaneously in the SORN network and allow for stable propagation of activity on a fast time scale. A single network can contain multiple non-overlapping rings suppressing each other. On a slower time scale activity switches from one synfire ring to another maintaining firing rate homeostasis. Overall, our results show how the interaction of multiple plasticity mechanisms might give rise to the robust formation of synfire chains in biological neural networks.
Keywords: homeostatic plasticity; network motif; network self-organization; recurrent neural network; spike-timing-dependent plasticity; synfire chain.