On the transmission of rate code in long feedforward networks with excitatory-inhibitory balance

The capability of feedforward networks composed of multiple layers of integrate-and-fire neurons to transmit rate code was examined. Synaptic connections were made only from one layer to the next, and excitation was balanced by inhibition. When time is discrete and the synaptic potentials rise instantaneously, we show that, for random uncorrelated input to layer one, the mean rate of activity in deep layers is essentially independent of input firing rate. This implies that the input rate cannot be transmitted reliably in such feedforward networks because neurons in a given layer tend to synchronize partially with each other because of shared inputs. As a result of this synchronization, the average firing rate in deep layers will either decay to zero or reach a stable fixed point, depending on model parameters. When time is treated continuously and the synaptic potentials rise instantaneously, these effects develop slowly, and rate transmission over a limited number of layers is possible. However, the correlations among neurons at the same layer hamper reliable assessment of firing rate by averaging over 100 msec (or less). When the synaptic potentials develop gradually, as is the realistic case, transmission of rate code fails. In a network in which inhibition only balances the mean excitation but is not timed precisely with it, neurons in each layer fire together, and this volley successively propagates from layer to layer. We conclude that the transmission of rate code in feedforward networks is highly unlikely.

Authors: Vladimir Litvak; Haim Sompolinsky; Idan Segev; Moshe Abeles
Year of publication: 2003
Journal: J Neurosci. 2003 Apr 1;23(7):3006-15.

Link to publication:


“Working memory”