The importance of forgetting: Limiting memory improves recovery of topological characteristics from neural data

PLoS One. 2018 Sep 4;13(9):e0202561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202561. eCollection 2018.


We develop of a line of work initiated by Curto and Itskov towards understanding the amount of information contained in the spike trains of hippocampal place cells via topology considerations. Previously, it was established that simply knowing which groups of place cells fire together in an animal's hippocampus is sufficient to extract the global topology of the animal's physical environment. We model a system where collections of place cells group and ungroup according to short-term plasticity rules. In particular, we obtain the surprising result that in experiments with spurious firing, the accuracy of the extracted topological information decreases with the persistence (beyond a certain regime) of the cell groups. This suggests that synaptic transience, or forgetting, is a mechanism by which the brain counteracts the effects of spurious place cell activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Place Cells / physiology*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Rodentia
  • Space Perception
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Time Factors

Grant support

This work was supported by National Science Foundation award number IIS-1422400 ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.