1. Neuroscience
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Neuroscience: How to train a neuron

  1. Rui P Costa  Is a corresponding author
  2. Alanna J Watt  Is a corresponding author
  3. P Jesper Sjöström  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  2. McGill University, Canada
  3. McGill University Health Centre, Canada
Cite this article as: eLife 2013;2:e00491 doi: 10.7554/eLife.00491
2 figures


In STDP, neuronal connections change strength depending on the relative timing of spikes. The lower figure shows how the strength of a connection between cell A and cell B changes as a function of the time difference between the spikes. Cell A consistently spiking before cell B (green region) strengthens the A→B connection, whereas cell B spiking before cell A (red region) weakens the connection. In dissected brain tissue, these changes occur over a time scale of approximately 50 milliseconds (Markram et al., 2012). However, Pawlak and colleagues found that they occur over a time scale of approximately 250 milliseconds in the intact brain.

Using STDP to train visual cortex neurons in rats. (A) In the setup used by Pawlak and colleagues, a bar was presented in one of four positions in the neuronal receptive field, position 2 in this case. A patch electrode recorded the activity of an individual neuron, and was also used to elicit single spikes by a brief injection of current. (B) By repeatedly eliciting a spike milliseconds after presentation of a visual stimulus in position 4, the neuron was trained to respond to that stimulus: the dark green line is the newly formed tuning curve; the pale green line is before training. (C) It was also possible to reshape an existing tuning curve by pairing the spike with the visual stimulus in a non-preferred position (in this case position 2). (D) By eliciting the spike milliseconds before a preferred visual stimulus, tuning was erased. Asterisks denote the trained position, while colors correspond to timings as in Figure 1.

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