Adaptive whitening with fast gain modulation and slow synaptic plasticity

Lyndon R. Duong, Eero P. Simoncelli, Dmitri B. Chklovskii, David Lipshutz

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Neurons in early sensory areas rapidly adapt to changing sensory statistics, both by normalizing the variance of their individual responses and by reducing correlations between their responses. Together, these transformations may be viewed as an adaptive form of statistical whitening. Existing mechanistic models of adaptive whitening exclusively use either synaptic plasticity or gain modulation as the biological substrate for adaptation; however, on their own, each of these models has significant limitations. In this work, we unify these approaches in a normative multi-timescale mechanistic model that adaptively whitens its responses with complementary computational roles for synaptic plasticity and gain modulation. Gains are modified on a fast timescale to adapt to the current statistical context, whereas synapses are modified on a slow timescale to match structural properties of the input statistics that are invariant across contexts. Our model is derived from a novel multi-timescale whitening objective that factorizes the inverse whitening matrix into basis vectors, which correspond to synaptic weights, and a diagonal matrix, which corresponds to neuronal gains. We test our model on synthetic and natural datasets and find that the synapses learn optimal configurations over long timescales that enable adaptive whitening on short timescales using gain modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2023
Event37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2023 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Dec 10 2023Dec 16 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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