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Adaptation supports short-term memory in a visual change detection task

By Brian Hu, Marina E Garrett, Peter A. Groblewski, Douglas R Ollerenshaw, Jiaqi Shang, Kate Roll, Sahar Manavi, Christof Koch, Shawn R Olsen, Stefan Mihalas

Posted 08 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.06.977512

The maintenance of short-term memories is critical for survival in a dynamically changing world. Previous studies suggest that this memory can be stored in the form of persistent neural activity or using a synaptic mechanism, such as with short-term plasticity. Here, we compare the predictions of these two mechanisms to neural and behavioral measurements in a visual change detection task. Mice were trained to respond to changes in a repeated sequence of natural images while neural activity was recorded using two-photon calcium imaging. We also trained two types of artificial neural networks on the same change detection task as the mice. Following fixed pre-processing using a pretrained convolutional neural network, either a recurrent neural network (RNN) or a feedforward neural network with short-term synaptic depression (STPNet) was trained to the same level of performance as the mice. While both networks are able to learn the task, the STPNet model contains units whose activity are more similar to the in vivo data and produces errors which are more similar to the mice. When images are omitted, an unexpected perturbation which was absent during training, mice often do not respond to the omission but are more likely to respond to the subsequent image. Unlike the RNN model, STPNet also produces a similar pattern of behavior. These results suggest that simple neural adaptation mechanisms may serve as an important bottom-up memory signal in this task, which can be used by downstream areas in the decision-making process. Author Summary Animals have to adapt to environments with rich dynamics and maintain multiple types of memories. In this study, we focus on a visual change detection task in mice which requires short-term memory. Learning which features need to be maintained in short-term memory can be realized in a recurrent neural network by changing connections in the network, resulting in memory maintenance through persistent activity. However, in biological networks, a large diversity of time-dependent intrinsic mechanisms are also available. As an alternative to persistent neural activity, we find that learning to make use of internal adapting dynamics better matches both the observed neural activity and behavior of animals in this simple task. The presence of a large diversity of temporal traces could be one of the reasons for the diversity of cells observed. We believe that both learning to keep representations of relevant stimuli in persistent activity and learning to make use of intrinsic time-dependent mechanisms exist, and their relative use will be dependent on the exact task. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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