James Humble


Spike-timing dependent plasticity is a learning mechanism used extensively within neural modelling. The learning rule has been shown to allow a neuron to find the onset of a spatio-temporal pattern repeated among its afferents. In this thesis, the first question addressed is ‘what does this neuron learn?’ With a spiking neuron model and linear prediction, evidence is adduced that the neuron learns two components: (1) the level of average background activity and (2) specific spike times of a pattern. Taking advantage of these findings, a network is developed that can train recognisers for longer spatio-temporal input signals using spike-timing dependent plasticity. Using a number of neurons that are mutually connected by plastic synapses and subject to a global winner-takes-all mechanism, chains of neurons can form where each neuron is selective to a different segment of a repeating input pattern, and the neurons are feedforwardly connected in such a way that both the correct stimulus and the firing of the previous neurons are required in order to activate the next neuron in the chain. This is akin to a simple class of finite state automata. Following this, a novel resource-based STDP learning rule is introduced. The learning rule has several advantages over typical implementations of STDP and results in synaptic statistics which match favourably with those observed experimentally. For example, synaptic weight distributions and the presence of silent synapses match experimental data.

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