With the advent of new experimental evidence showing that dendrites play an active role in processing a neuron's inputs, we revisit the question of a suitable abstraction for the computing function of a neuron in processing spatiotemporal input patterns. Although the integrative role of a neuron in relation to the spatial clustering of synaptic inputs can be described by a two-layer neural network, no corresponding abstraction has yet been described for how a neuron processes temporal input patterns on the dendrites. We address this void using a real-time aVLSI (analog very-large-scale-integrated) dendritic compartmental model, which incorporates two widely studied classes of regenerative event mechanisms: one is mediated by voltage-gated ion channels and the other by transmitter-gated NMDA channels. From this model, we find that the response of a dendritic compartment can be described as a nonlinear sigmoidal function of both the degree of input temporal synchrony and the synaptic input spatial clustering. We propose that a neuron with active dendrites can be modeled as a multilayer network that selectively amplifies responses to relevant spatiotemporal input spike patterns.

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