Connectomic Constraints on Computation in Feedforward Networks of Spiking Neurons

Venkatakrishnan Ramaswamy, Arunava Banerjee

Several efforts are currently underway to decipher the connectome or parts thereof in a variety of organisms. Ascertaining the detailed physiological properties of all the neurons in these connectomes, however, is out of the scope of such projects. It is therefore unclear to what extent knowledge of the connectome alone will advance a mechanistic understanding of computation occurring in these neural circuits, especially when the high-level function of the said circuit is unknown. We consider, here, the question of how the wiring diagram of neurons imposes constraints on what neural circuits can compute, when we cannot assume detailed information on the physiological response properties of the neurons. We call such constraints — that arise by virtue of the connectome — connectomic constraints on computation. For feedforward networks equipped with neurons that obey a deterministic spiking neuron model which satisfies a small number of properties, we ask if just by knowing the architecture of a network, we can rule out computations that it could be doing, no matter what response properties each of its neurons may have. We show results of this form, for certain classes of network architectures. On the other hand, we also prove that with the limited set of properties assumed for our model neurons, there are fundamental limits to the constraints imposed by network structure. Thus, our theory suggests that while connectomic constraints might restrict the computational ability of certain classes of network architectures, we may require more elaborate information on the properties of neurons in the network, before we can discern such results for other classes of networks.

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