Dynamic stochastic synapses as computational units

W. Maass and A. M. Zador


In most neural network models, synapses are treated as static weights that change only with the slow time scales of learning. It is well known, however, that synapses are highly dynamic and show use-dependent plasticity over a wide range of time scales. Moreover, synaptic transmission is an inherently stochastic process: a spike arriving at a presynaptic terminal triggers the release of a vesicle of neurotransmitter from a release site with a probability that can be much less than one. We consider a simple model for dynamic stochastic synapses that can easily be integrated into common models for networks of integrate-and-fire neurons (spiking neurons). The parameters of this model have direct interpretations in terms of synaptic physiology. We investigate the consequences of the model for computing with individual spikes and demonstrate through rigorous theoretical results that the computational power of the network is increased through the use of dynamic synapses.

Reference: W. Maass and A. M. Zador. Dynamic stochastic synapses as computational units. Neural Computation, 11(4):903-917, 1999.