It is believed that both Hebbian and homeostatic mechanisms are essential in neural learning. While Hebbian plasticity selectively modifies synaptic connectivity according to activity experienced, homeostatic plasticity constrains this change so that neural activity is always within reasonable physiological limits. Recent experiments reveal spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) as a new type of Hebbian learning with high time precision and heterosynaptic plasticity (HSP) as a new homeostatic mechanism acting directly on synapses. Here, we study the effect of STDP and HSP on randomly connected neural networks. Despite the reported successes of STDP to account for neural activities at the single-cell level, we find that, surprisingly, at the network level, networks trained using STDP alone cannot seem to generate realistic neural activities. For instance, STDP would stipulate that past sensory experience be maintained forever if it is no longer activated. To overcome this difficulty, motivated by the fact that HSP can induce strong competition between sensory experiences, we propose a biophysically plausible learning rule by combining STDP and HSP. Based on the Fokker-Planck theory and extensive numerical computations, we demonstrate that HSP and STDP operated on different time scales can complement each other, resulting in more realistic network activities. Our finding may provide fresh insight into the learning mechanism of the brain.
- long-term potentiation
- asymmetric Hebbian plasticity
- synaptic plasticity
- neocortical neurons
- pyramidal cells