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Title: Pattern formation in neural circuits by the interaction of travelling waves with spike-timing dependent plasticity
Author: Bennett, James Edward Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 1729
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Spontaneous travelling waves of neuronal activity are a prominent feature throughout the developing brain and have been shown to be essential for achieving normal function, but the mechanism of their action on post-synaptic connections remains unknown. A well-known and widespread mechanism for altering synaptic strengths is spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP), whereby the temporal relationship between the pre- and post-synaptic spikes determines whether a synapse is strengthened or weakened. Here, I answer the theoretical question of how these two phenomenon interact: what types of connectivity patterns can emerge when travelling waves drive a downstream area that implements STDP, and what are the critical features of the waves and the plasticity rules that shape these patterns? I then demonstrate how the theory can be applied to the development of the visual system, where retinal waves are hypothesised to play a role in the refinement of downstream connections. My major findings are as follows. (1) Mathematically, STDP translates the correlated activity of travelling waves into coherent patterns of synaptic connectivity; it maps the spatiotemporal structure in waves into a spatial pattern of synaptic strengths, building periodic structures into feedforward circuits. This is analogous to pattern formation in reaction diffusion systems. The theory reveals a role for the wave speed and time scale of the STDP rule in determining the spatial frequency of the connectivity pattern. (2) Simulations verify the theory and extend it from one-dimensional to two-dimensional cases, and from simplified linear wavefronts to more complex realistic and noisy wave patterns. (3) With appropriate constraints, these pattern formation abilities can be harnessed to explain a wide range of developmental phenomena, including how receptive fields (RFs) in the visual system are refined in size and topography and how simple-cell and direction selective RFs can develop. The theory is applied to the visual system here but generalises across different brain areas and STDP rules. The theory makes several predictions that are testable using existing experimental paradigms.
Supervisor: Bair, Wyeth; Parker, Andrew; Bressloff, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Computational Neuroscience ; Theoretical Neuroscience ; spike-timing dependent plasticity ; travelling waves ; pattern formation ; development ; receptive field ; refinement ; Turing instability ; neural circuit ; vision ; retinal wave ; superior colliculus ; cortex ; direction selectivity