Inhibition is known to influence the forward-directed flow of information within neurons. However, also regulation of backward-directed signals, such as backpropagating action potentials (bAPs), can enrich the functional repertoire of local circuits. Inhibitory control of bAP spread, for example, can provide a switch for the plasticity of excitatory synapses. Although such a mechanism is possible, it requires a precise timing of inhibition to annihilate bAPs without impairment of forward-directed excitatory information flow. Here, we propose a specific learning rule for inhibitory synapses to automatically generate the correct timing to gate bAPs in pyramidal cells when embedded in a local circuit of feedforward inhibition. Based on computational modeling of multi-compartmental neurons with physiological properties, we demonstrate that a learning rule with anti-Hebbian shape can establish the required temporal precision. In contrast to classical spike-timing dependent plasticity of excitatory synapses, the proposed inhibitory learning mechanism does not necessarily require the definition of an upper bound of synaptic weights because of its tendency to self-terminate once annihilation of bAPs has been reached. Our study provides a functional context in which one of the many time-dependent learning rules that have been observed experimentally - specifically, a learning rule with anti-Hebbian shape - is assigned a relevant role for inhibitory synapses. Moreover, the described mechanism is compatible with an upregulation of excitatory plasticity by disinhibition.
Keywords: dendritic inhibition; dendritic signaling; feedforward circuit; metaplasticity.
© 2016 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.