Keywords: [ Neuroscience ] [ biologically plausible learning ] [ cortical microcircuits ] [ Synaptic Plasticity ] [ Deep Learning ]
The error-backpropagation (backprop) algorithm remains the most common solution to the credit assignment problem in artificial neural networks. In neuroscience, it is unclear whether the brain could adopt a similar strategy to correctly modify its synapses. Recent models have attempted to bridge this gap while being consistent with a range of experimental observations. However, these models are either unable to effectively backpropagate error signals across multiple layers or require a multi-phase learning process, neither of which are reminiscent of learning in the brain. Here, we introduce a new model, Bursting Cortico-Cortical Networks (BurstCCN), which solves these issues by integrating known properties of cortical networks namely bursting activity, short-term plasticity (STP) and dendrite-targeting interneurons. BurstCCN relies on burst multiplexing via connection-type-specific STP to propagate backprop-like error signals within deep cortical networks. These error signals are encoded at distal dendrites and induce burst-dependent plasticity as a result of excitatory-inhibitory top-down inputs. First, we demonstrate that our model can effectively backpropagate errors through multiple layers using a single-phase learning process. Next, we show both empirically and analytically that learning in our model approximates backprop-derived gradients. Finally, we demonstrate that our model is capable of learning complex image classification tasks (MNIST and CIFAR-10). Overall, our results suggest that cortical features across sub-cellular, cellular, microcircuit and systems levels jointly underlie single-phase efficient deep learning in the brain.