To navigate the world around us, neural circuits rapidly adapt to their environment learning generalizable strategies to decode information. When modeling these learning strategies, network models find the optimal solution to satisfy one task condition but fail when introduced to a novel task or even a different stimulus in the same space. In the experiments described in this letter, I investigate the role of lateral gap junctions in learning generalizable strategies to process information. Lateral gap junctions are formed by connexin proteins creating an open pore that allows for direct electrical signaling between two neurons. During neural development, the rate of gap junctions is high, and daughter cells that share similar tuning properties are more likely to be connected by these junctions. Gap junctions are highly plastic and get heavily pruned throughout development. I hypothesize that they mediate generalized learning by imprinting the weighting structure within a layer to avoid overfitting to one task condition. To test this hypothesis, I implemented a feedforward probabilistic neural network mimicking a cortical fast spiking neuron circuit that is heavily involved in movement. Many of these cells are tuned to speeds that I used as the input stimulus for the network to estimate. When training this network using a delta learning rule, both a laterally connected network and an unconnected network can estimate a single speed. However, when asking the network to estimate two or more speeds, alternated in training, an unconnected network either cannot learn speed or optimizes to a singular speed, while the laterally connected network learns the generalizable strategy and can estimate both speeds. These results suggest that lateral gap junctions between neurons enable generalized learning, which may help explain learning differences across life span.

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