Abstract

A key aspect of the neural coding problem is understanding how representations of afferent stimuli are built through the dynamics of learning and adaptation within neural networks. The infomax paradigm is built on the premise that such learning attempts to maximize the mutual information between input stimuli and neural activities. In this letter, we tackle the problem of such information-based neural coding with an eye toward two conceptual hurdles. Specifically, we examine and then show how this form of coding can be achieved with online input processing. Our framework thus obviates the biological incompatibility of optimization methods that rely on global network awareness and batch processing of sensory signals. Central to our result is the use of variational bounds as a surrogate objective function, an established technique that has not previously been shown to yield online policies. We obtain learning dynamics for both linear-continuous and discrete spiking neural encoding models under the umbrella of linear gaussian decoders. This result is enabled by approximating certain information quantities in terms of neuronal activity via pairwise feedback mechanisms. Furthermore, we tackle the problem of how such learning dynamics can be realized with strict energetic constraints. We show that endowing networks with auxiliary variables that evolve on a slower timescale can allow for the realization of saddle-point optimization within the neural dynamics, leading to neural codes with favorable properties in terms of both information and energy.

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