Synaptic change is a costly resource, particularly for brain structures that have a high demand of synaptic plasticity. For example, building memories of object positions requires efficient use of plasticity resources since objects can easily change their location in space and yet we can memorize object locations. But how should a neural circuit ideally be set up to integrate two input streams (object location and identity) in case the overall synaptic changes should be minimized during ongoing learning? This letter provides a theoretical framework on how the two input pathways should ideally be specified. Generally the model predicts that the information-rich pathway should be plastic and encoded sparsely, whereas the pathway conveying less information should be encoded densely and undergo learning only if a neuronal representation of a novel object has to be established. As an example, we consider hippocampal area CA1, which combines place and object information. The model thereby provides a normative account of hippocampal rate remapping, that is, modulations of place field activity by changes of local cues. It may as well be applicable to other brain areas (such as neocortical layer V) that learn combinatorial codes from multiple input streams.

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