Spiking activity of neurons engaged in learning and performing a task show complex spatiotemporal dynamics. While the output of recurrent network models can learn to perform various tasks, the possible range of recurrent dynamics that emerge after learning remains unknown. Here we show that modifying the recurrent connectivity with a recursive least squares algorithm provides sufficient flexibility for synaptic and spiking rate dynamics of spiking networks to produce a wide range of spatiotemporal activity. We apply the training method to learn arbitrary firing patterns, stabilize irregular spiking activity of a balanced network, and reproduce the heterogeneous spiking rate patterns of cortical neurons engaged in motor planning and movement. We identify sufficient conditions for successful learning, characterize two types of learning errors, and assess the network capacity. Our findings show that synaptically-coupled recurrent spiking networks possess a vast computational capability that can support the diverse activity patterns in the brain.
Much of studies on neural computation are based on network models of static neurons that produce analog output, despite the fact that information processing in the brain is predominantly carried out by dynamic neurons that produce discrete pulses called spikes. Research in spike-based computation has been impeded by the lack of efficient supervised learning algorithm for spiking networks. Here, we present a gradient descent method for optimizing spiking network models by introducing a differentiable formulation of spiking networks and deriving the exact gradient calculation. For demonstration, we trained recurrent spiking networks on two dynamic tasks: one that requires optimizing fast (~millisecond) spike-based interactions for efficient encoding of information, and a delayed memory XOR task over extended duration (~second). The results show that our method indeed optimizes the spiking network dynamics on the time scale of individual spikes as well as behavioral time scales. In conclusion, our result offers a general purpose supervised learning algorithm for spiking neural networks, thus advancing further investigations on spike-based computation.
To predict sensory inputs or control motor trajectories, the brain must constantly learn temporal dynamics based on error feedback. However, it remains unclear how such supervised learning is implemented in biological neural networks. Learning in recurrent spiking networks is notoriously difficult because local changes in connectivity may have an unpredictable effect on the global dynamics. The most commonly used learning rules, such as temporal back-propagation, are not local and thus not biologically plausible. Furthermore, reproducing the Poisson-like statistics of neural responses requires the use of networks with balanced excitation and inhibition. Such balance is easily destroyed during learning. Using a top-down approach, we show how networks of integrate-and-fire neurons can learn arbitrary linear dynamical systems by feeding back their error as a feed-forward input. The network uses two types of recurrent connections: fast and slow. The fast connections learn to balance excitation and inhibition using a voltage-based plasticity rule. The slow connections are trained to minimize the error feedback using a current-based Hebbian learning rule. Importantly, the balance maintained by fast connections is crucial to ensure that global error signals are available locally in each neuron, in turn resulting in a local learning rule for the slow connections. This demonstrates that spiking networks can learn complex dynamics using purely local learning rules, using E/I balance as the key rather than an additional constraint. The resulting network implements a given function within the predictive coding scheme, with minimal dimensions and activity.
The brain uses spikes in neural circuits to perform many dynamical computations. The computations are performed with properties such as spiking efficiency, i.e. minimal number of spikes, and robustness to noise. A major obstacle for learning computations in artificial spiking neural networks with such desired biological properties is due to lack of our understanding of how biological spiking neural networks learn computations. Here, we consider the credit assignment problem, i.e. determining the local contribution of each synapse to the network's global output error, for learning nonlinear dynamical computations in a spiking network with the desired properties of biological networks. We approach this problem by fusing the theory of efficient, balanced neural networks (EBN) with nonlinear adaptive control theory to propose a local learning rule. Locality of learning rules are ensured by feeding back into the network its own error, resulting in a learning rule depending solely on presynaptic inputs and error feedbacks. The spiking efficiency and robustness of the network are guaranteed by maintaining a tight excitatory/inhibitory balance, ensuring that each spike represents a local projection of the global output error and minimizes a loss function. The resulting networks can learn to implement complex dynamics with very small numbers of neurons and spikes, exhibit the same spike train variability as observed experimentally, and are extremely robust to noise and neuronal loss.
Recurrent networks of spiking neurons (RSNNs) underlie the astounding computing and learning capabilities of the brain. But computing and learning capabilities of RSNN models have remained poor, at least in comparison with ANNs. We address two possible reasons for that. One is that RSNNs in the brain are not randomly connected or designed according to simple rules, and they do not start learning as a tabula rasa network. Rather, RSNNs in the brain were optimized for their tasks through evolution, development, and prior experience. Details of these optimization processes are largely unknown. But their functional contribution can be approximated through powerful optimization methods, such as backpropagation through time (BPTT). A second major mismatch between RSNNs in the brain and models is that the latter only show a small fraction of the dynamics of neurons and synapses in the brain. We include neurons in our RSNN model that reproduce one prominent dynamical process of biological neurons that takes place at the behaviourally relevant time scale of seconds: neuronal adaptation. We denote these networks as LSNNs because of their Long short-term memory. The inclusion of adapting neurons drastically increases the computing and learning capability of RSNNs if they are trained and configured by deep learning (BPTT combined with a rewiring algorithm that optimizes the network architecture). In fact, the computational performance of these RSNNs approaches for the first time that of LSTM networks. In addition RSNNs with adapting neurons can acquire abstract knowledge from prior learning in a Learning-to-Learn (L2L) scheme, and transfer that knowledge in order to learn new but related tasks from very few examples. We demonstrate this for supervised learning and reinforcement learning.