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Neural Computation

June 2017, Vol. 29, No. 6, Pages 1468-1527
(doi: 10.1162/NECO_a_00956)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mean First Passage Memory Lifetimes by Reducing Complex Synapses to Simple Synapses
Article PDF (1.19 MB)

Memory models that store new memories by forgetting old ones have memory lifetimes that are rather short and grow only logarithmically in the number of synapses. Attempts to overcome these deficits include “complex” models of synaptic plasticity in which synapses possess internal states governing the expression of synaptic plasticity. Integrate-and-express, filter-based models of synaptic plasticity propose that synapses act as low-pass filters, integrating plasticity induction signals before expressing synaptic plasticity. Such mechanisms enhance memory lifetimes, leading to an initial rise in the memory signal that is in radical contrast to other related, but nonintegrative, memory models. Because of the complexity of models with internal synaptic states, however, their dynamics can be more difficult to extract compared to “simple” models that lack internal states. Here, we show that by focusing only on processes that lead to changes in synaptic strength, we can integrate out internal synaptic states and effectively reduce complex synapses to simple synapses. For binary-strength synapses, these simplified dynamics then allow us to work directly in the transitions in perceptron activation induced by memory storage rather than in the underlying transitions in synaptic configurations. This permits us to write down master and Fokker-Planck equations that may be simplified under certain, well-defined approximations. These methods allow us to see that memory based on synaptic filters can be viewed as an initial transient that leads to memory signal rise, followed by the emergence of Ornstein-Uhlenbeck-like dynamics that return the system to equilibrium. We may use this approach to compute mean first passage time–defined memory lifetimes for complex models of memory storage.