Role of synaptic dynamics and heterogeneity in neuronal learning of temporal code

Ziv Rotman, Vitaly A. Klyachko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Temporal codes are believed to play important roles in neuronal representation of information. Neuronal ability to classify and learn temporal spiking patterns is thus essential for successful extraction and processing of information. Understanding neuronal learning of temporal code has been complicated, however, by the intrinsic stochasticity of synaptic transmission. Using a computational model of a learning neuron, the tempotron, we studied the effects of synaptic unreliability and short-term dynamics on the neuron's ability to learn spike timing rules. Our results suggest that such a model neuron can learn to classify spike timing patterns even with unreliable synapses, albeit with a significantly reduced success rate. We explored strategies to improve correct spike timing classification and found that firing clustered spike bursts significantly improves learning performance. Furthermore, rapid activity-dependent modulation of synaptic unreliability, implemented with realistic models of dynamic synapses, further improved classification of different burst properties and spike timing modalities. Neuronal models with only facilitating or only depressing inputs exhibited preference for specific types of spike timing rules, but a mixture of facilitating and depressing synapses permitted much improved learning of multiple rules. We tested applicability of these findings to real neurons by considering neuronal learning models with the naturally distributed input release probabilities found in excitatory hippocampal synapses. Our results suggest that spike bursts comprise several encoding modalities that can be learned effectively with stochastic dynamic synapses, and that distributed release probabilities significantly improve learning performance. Synaptic unreliability and dynamics may thus play important roles in the neuron's ability to learn spike timing rules during decoding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2275-2286
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2013


  • Neural learning
  • Short-term plasticity
  • Synapse
  • Synaptic dynamics
  • Temporal code

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