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Neural Computation

January 2011, Vol. 23, No. 1, Pages 124-159
(doi: 10.1162/NECO_a_00061)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Mean Time to Express Synaptic Plasticity in Integrate-and-Express, Stochastic Models of Synaptic Plasticity Induction
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Stochastic models of synaptic plasticity propose that single synapses perform a directed random walk of fixed step sizes in synaptic strength, thereby embracing the view that the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity constitute a stochastic dynamical system. However, fluctuations in synaptic strength present a formidable challenge to such an approach. We have previously proposed that single synapses must interpose an integration and filtering mechanism between the induction of synaptic plasticity and the expression of synaptic plasticity in order to control fluctuations. We analyze a class of three such mechanisms in the presence of possibly non-Markovian plasticity induction processes, deriving expressions for the mean expression time in these models. One of these filtering mechanisms constitutes a discrete low-pass filter that could be implemented on a small collection of molecules at single synapses, such as CaMKII, and we analyze this discrete filter in some detail. After considering Markov induction processes, we examine our own stochastic model of spike-timing-dependent plasticity, for which the probability density functions of the induction of plasticity steps have previously been derived. We determine the dependence of the mean time to express a plasticity step on pre- and postsynaptic firing rates in this model, and we also consider, numerically, the long-term stability against fluctuations of patterns of neuronal connectivity that typically emerge during neuronal development.