Keywords: [ dale’s principle ] [ learning ] [ information coding ] [ neural architecture ] [ Neural Coding ] [ spiking neural networks ] [ recurrent neural networks ]
Dale’s principle implies that biological neural networks are composed of neurons that are either excitatory or inhibitory. While the number of possible architectures of such Daleian networks is exponentially smaller than the number of non-Daleian ones, the computational and functional implications of using Daleian networks by the brain are mostly unknown. Here, we use models of recurrent spiking neural networks and rate-based ones to show, surprisingly, that despite the structural limitations on Daleian networks, they can approximate the computation performed by non-Daleian networks to a very high degree of accuracy. Moreover, we find that Daleian networks are more functionally robust to synaptic noise. We then show that unlike non-Daleian networks, Daleian ones can learn efficiently by tuning of single neuron features, nearly as well as learning by tuning individual synaptic weights. Importantly, this suggests a simpler and more biologically plausible learning mechanisms. We therefore suggest that in addition to architectural simplicity, Dale's principle confers computational and learning benefits for biological networks, and offer new directions for constructing and training biologically-inspired artificial neural networks.