A simulation procedure is described for making feasible large-scale simulations of recurrent neural networks of spiking neurons and plastic synapses. The procedure is applicable if the dynamic variables of both neurons and synapses evolve deterministically between any two successive spikes. Spikes introduce jumps in these variables, and since spike trains are typically noisy, spikes introduce stochasticity into both dynamics. Since all events in the simulation are guided by the arrival of spikes, at neurons or synapses, we name this procedure event-driven.

The procedure is described in detail, and its logic and performance are compared with conventional (synchronous) simulations. The main impact of the new approach is a drastic reduction of the computational load incurred upon introduction of dynamic synaptic efficacies, which vary organically as a function of the activities of the pre- and postsynaptic neurons. In fact, the computational load per neuron in the presence of the synaptic dynamics grows linearly with the number of neurons and is only about 6% more than the load with fixed synapses. Even the latter is handled quite efficiently by the algorithm.

We illustrate the operation of the algorithm in a specific case with integrate-and-fire neurons and specific spike-driven synaptic dynamics. Both dynamical elements have been found to be naturally implementable in VLSI. This network is simulated to show the effects on the synaptic structure of the presentation of stimuli, as well as the stability of the generated matrix to the neural activity it induces.

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