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Inhibitory interneurons enable sparse code formation in a spiking circuit model of V1
BMC Neurosciencevolume 13, Article number: P148 (2012)
Sparse coding accounts for several physiological properties of primary visual cortex (V1), including the shapes of simple cell receptive fields and the highly kurtotic firing rates of V1 neurons . Current spiking network models of pattern learning  and sparse coding  require direct inhibitory connections between the excitatory simple cells, in violation of Dale's Law which states that neurons can either excite or inhibit but not both. At the same time, the computational role of inhibitory neurons in cortical microcircuit function has yet to be fully explained.
Here we show that adding a separate population of inhibitory neurons to a recently proposed model of V1  not only brings spiking network models of sparse coding in line with Dale’s Law, but it also predicts excitatory-to-inhibitory neuron ratios and explains how inhibitory neurons may function computationally. When trained on natural images, this excitatory-inhibitory spiking circuit learns Gabor-like receptive fields as found in V1 using spiking neurons and synaptically local plasticity rules. The inhibitory cells enable sparse code formation using a novel learning rule by collaboratively discovering and suppressing correlations within the excitatory population (Figure 1). The model predicts that only a small number of inhibitory cells is required relative to excitatory cells, matching physiological ratios observed in primary visual cortex.
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