Principles of real-time computing with feedback applied to cortical microcircuit models

W. Maass, P. Joshi, and E. D. Sontag


The network topology of neurons in the brain exhibits an abundance of feedback connections, but the computational function of these feedback connections is largely unknown. We present a computational theory that characterizes the gain in computational power achieved through feedback in dynamical systems with fading memory. It implies that many such systems acquire through feedback universal computational capabilities for analog computing with a non-fading memory. In particular, we show that feedback enables such systems to process time-varying input streams in diverse ways according to rules that are implemented through internal states of the dynamical system. In contrast to previous attractor-based computational models for neural networks, these flexible internal states are high-dimensional attractors of the circuit dynamics, that still allow the circuit state to absorb new information from online input streams. In this way one arrives at novel models for working memory, integration of evidence, and reward expectation in cortical circuits. We show that they are applicable to circuits of conductance-based Hodgkin-Huxley (HH) neurons with high levels of noise that reflect experimental data on in-vivo conditions.

Reference: W. Maass, P. Joshi, and E. D. Sontag. Principles of real-time computing with feedback applied to cortical microcircuit models. In Y. Weiss, B. Schoelkopf, and J. Platt, editors, Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, volume 18, pages 835-842. MIT Press, 2006.