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Computational principles of synaptic memory consolidation

Nature Neuroscience volume 19, pages 16971706 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Memories are stored and retained through complex, coupled processes operating on multiple timescales. To understand the computational principles behind these intricate networks of interactions, we construct a broad class of synaptic models that efficiently harness biological complexity to preserve numerous memories by protecting them against the adverse effects of overwriting. The memory capacity scales almost linearly with the number of synapses, which is a substantial improvement over the square root scaling of previous models. This was achieved by combining multiple dynamical processes that initially store memories in fast variables and then progressively transfer them to slower variables. Notably, the interactions between fast and slow variables are bidirectional. The proposed models are robust to parameter perturbations and can explain several properties of biological memory, including delayed expression of synaptic modifications, metaplasticity, and spacing effects.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to L.F. Abbott and U.S. Bhalla for many comments on the manuscript and for discussions. This work was supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Swartz Foundation, the Kavli Foundation, the Grossman Foundation and RISE, the Research Initiatives for Science and Engineering. The illustrations of the beakers were generated using the free ray tracing software POV-Ray.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Marcus K Benna
    •  & Stefano Fusi
  2. Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Stefano Fusi

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Contributions

M.K.B. conceived the original idea. M.K.B. and S.F. developed and analyzed the model, and wrote the article.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stefano Fusi.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4401

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