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Short term depression unmasks the ghost frequency

Olde Scheper, T. V., Mansvelder, H. D., and Van Ooyen, A. (2012). PloS ONE 7(12): e50189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050189. [Full text: PDF]


Short Term Plasticity (STP) has been shown to exist extensively in synapses throughout the brain. Its function is more or less clear in the sense that it alters the probability of synaptic transmission at short time scales. However, it is still unclear what effect STP has on the dynamics of neural networks.

We show, using a novel dynamic STP model, that Short Term Depression (STD) can affect the phase of frequency coded input such that small networks can perform temporal signal summation and determination with high accuracy. We show that this property of STD can readily solve the problem of the ghost frequency, the perceived pitch of a harmonic complex in absence of the base frequency.

Additionally, we demonstrate that this property can explain dynamics in larger networks. By means of two models, one of chopper neurons in the Ventral Cochlear Nucleus and one of a cortical microcircuit with inhibitory Martinotti neurons, it is shown that the dynamics in these microcircuits can reliably be reproduced using STP.

Our model of STP gives important insights into the potential roles of STP in self-regulation of cortical activity and long-range afferent input in neuronal microcircuits.

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