Background-activity-dependent properties of a network model for working memory that incorporates cellular bistability

Christopher P. Fall, Timothy J. Lewis, John Rinzel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In models of working memory, transient stimuli are encoded by feature-selective persistent neural activity. Network models of working memory are also implicitly bistable. In the absence of a brief stimulus, only spontaneous, low-level, and presumably nonpatterned neural activity is seen. In many working-memory models, local recurrent excitation combined with long-range inhibition (Mexican hat coupling) can result in a network-induced, spatially localized persistent activity or "bump state" that coexists with a stable uniform state. There is now renewed interest in the concept that individual neurons might have some intrinsic ability to sustain persistent activity without recurrent network interactions. A recent visuospatial working-memory model (Camperi and Wang 1998) incorporates both intrinsic bistability of individual neurons within a firing rate network model and a single population of neurons on a ring with lateral inhibitory coupling. We have explored this model in more detail and have characterized the response properties with changes in background synaptic input I o and stimulus width. We find that only a small range of I o yields a working-memory-like coexistence of bump and uniform solutions that are both stable. There is a rather larger range where only the bump solution is stable that might correspond instead to a feature-selective long-term memory. Such a network therefore requires careful tuning to exhibit working-memory-like function. Interestingly, where bumps and uniform stable states coexist, we find a continuous family of stable bumps representing stimulus width. Thus, in the range of parameters corresponding to working memory, the model is capable of capturing a two-parameter family of stimulus features including both orientation and width.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-118
Number of pages10
JournalBiological cybernetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Computer Science


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