Sam Sutton's journal club session where he discusses the paper "Signal Propagation and Logic Gating in Networks of Integrate-and-Fire Neurons (Vogels and Abbott, 2005)".
Transmission of signals within the brain is essential for cognitive function, but it is not clear how neural circuits support reliable and accurate signal propagation over a sufficiently large dynamic range. Two modes of propagation have been studied: synfire chains, in which synchronous activity travels through feedforward layers of a neuronal network, and the propagation of fluctuations in firing rate across these layers. In both cases, a sufficient amount of noise, which was added to previous models from an external source, had to be included to support stable propagation. Sparse, randomly connected networks of spiking model neurons can generate chaotic patterns of activity. We investigate whether this activity, which is a more realistic noise source, is sufficient to allow for signal transmission. We find that, for rate-coded signals but not for synfire chains, such networks support robust and accurate signal reproduction through up to six layers if appropriate adjustments are made in synaptic strengths. We investigate the factors affecting transmission and show that multiple signals can propagate simultaneously along different pathways. Using this feature, we show how different types of logic gates can arise within the architecture of the random network through the strengthening of specific synapses.