Drifting neuronal representations: Bug or feature?


Masset*, P., Qin*, S. & Zavatone-Veth*, J.A. Drifting neuronal representations: Bug or feature?. Biological Cybernetics 116, 3, 253-266 (2022).
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The brain displays a remarkable ability to sustain stable memories, allowing animals to execute precise behaviors or recall stimulus associations years after they were first learned. Yet, recent long-term recording experiments have revealed that single-neuron representations continuously change over time, contravening the classical assumption that learned features remain static. How do unstable neural codes support robust perception, memories, and actions? Here, we review recent experimental evidence for such representational drift across brain areas, as well as dissections of its functional characteristics and underlying mechanisms. We emphasize theoretical proposals for how drift need not only be a form of noise for which the brain must compensate. Rather, it can emerge from computationally beneficial mechanisms in hierarchical networks performing robust probabilistic computations. \copyright 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

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Last updated on 07/07/2022