Effects of firing variability on network structures with spike-timing-dependent plasticity

Bin Min, Douglas Zhou, David Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synaptic plasticity is believed to be the biological substrate underlying learning and memory. One of the most widespread forms of synaptic plasticity, spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), uses the spike timing information of presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons to induce synaptic potentiation or depression. An open question is how STDP organizes the connectivity patterns in neuronal circuits. Previous studies have placed much emphasis on the role of firing rate in shaping connectivity patterns. Here, we go beyond the firing rate description to develop a self-consistent linear response theory that incorporates the information of both firing rate and firing variability. By decomposing the pairwise spike correlation into one component associated with local direct connections and the other associated with indirect connections, we identify two distinct regimes regarding the network structures learned through STDP. In one regime, the contribution of the direct-connection correlations dominates over that of the indirect-connection correlations in the learning dynamics; this gives rise to a network structure consistent with the firing rate description. In the other regime, the contribution of the indirect-connection correlations dominates in the learning dynamics, leading to a network structure different from the firing rate description. We demonstrate that the heterogeneity of firing variability across neuronal populations induces a temporally asymmetric structure of indirect-connection correlations. This temporally asymmetric structure underlies the emergence of the second regime. Our study provides a new perspective that emphasizes the role of high-order statistics of spiking activity in the spike-correlation-sensitive learning dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jan 23 2018


  • Correlation structure
  • Firing variability
  • Linear response theory
  • STDP
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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