Hippocampal area CA3 is widely considered to function as an autoassociative memory. However, it is insufficiently understood how it does so. In particular, the extensive experimental evidence for the importance of carefully regulated spiking times poses the question as to how spike timing-based dynamics may support memory functions. Here, we develop a normative theory of autoassociative memory encompassing such network dynamics. Our theory specifies the way that the synaptic plasticity rule of a memory constrains the form of neuronal interactions that will retrieve memories optimally. If memories are stored by spike timing-dependent plasticity, neuronal interactions should be formalized in terms of a phase response curve, indicating the effect of presynaptic spikes on the timing of postsynaptic spikes. We show through simulation that such memories are competent analog autoassociators and demonstrate directly that the attributes of phase response curves of CA3 pyramidal cells recorded in vitro qualitatively conform with the theory.
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