Neurons that sustain elevated firing in the absence of stimuli have been found in many neural systems. In graded persistent activity, neurons can sustain firing at many levels, suggesting a widely found type of network dynamics in which networks can relax to any one of a continuum of stationary states. The reproduction of these findings in model networks of nonlinear neurons has turned out to be nontrivial. A particularly insightful model has been the “bump attractor,” in which a continuous attractor emerges through an underlying symmetry in the network connectivity matrix. This model, however, cannot account for data in which the persistent firing of neurons is a monotonic—rather than a bell-shaped—function of a stored variable. Here, we show that the symmetry used in the bump attractor network can be employed to create a whole family of continuous attractor networks, including those with monotonic tuning. Our design is based on tuning the external inputs to networks that have a connectivity matrix with Toeplitz symmetry. In particular, we provide a complete analytical solution of a line attractor network with monotonic tuning and show that for many other networks, the numerical tuning of synaptic weights reduces to the computation of a single parameter.

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