, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 253-280
Date: 21 Jul 2011

After-hyperpolarization currents and acetylcholine control sigmoid transfer functions in a spiking cortical model

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Recurrent networks are ubiquitous in the brain, where they enable a diverse set of transformations during perception, cognition, emotion, and action. It has been known since the 1970’s how, in rate-based recurrent on-center off-surround networks, the choice of feedback signal function can control the transformation of input patterns into activity patterns that are stored in short term memory. A sigmoid signal function may, in particular, control a quenching threshold below which inputs are suppressed as noise and above which they may be contrast enhanced before the resulting activity pattern is stored. The threshold and slope of the sigmoid signal function determine the degree of noise suppression and of contrast enhancement. This article analyses how sigmoid signal functions and their shape may be determined in biophysically realistic spiking neurons. Combinations of fast, medium, and slow after-hyperpolarization (AHP) currents, and their modulation by acetylcholine (ACh), can control sigmoid signal threshold and slope. Instead of a simple gain in excitability that was previously attributed to ACh, cholinergic modulation may cause translation of the sigmoid threshold. This property clarifies how activation of ACh by basal forebrain circuits, notably the nucleus basalis of Meynert, may alter the vigilance of category learning circuits, and thus their sensitivity to predictive mismatches, thereby controlling whether learned categories code concrete or abstract information, as predicted by Adaptive Resonance Theory.