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posted on 01.10.2021, 04:51 authored by Duy-Tan J. Pham, Gene J. Yu, Jean-Marie C. Bouteiller, Theodore W. Berger

Synapses are critical actors of neuronal transmission as they form the basis of chemical communication between neurons. Accurate computational models of synaptic dynamics may prove important in elucidating emergent properties across hierarchical scales. Yet, in large-scale neuronal network simulations, synapses are often modeled as highly simplified linear exponential functions due to their small computational footprint. However, these models cannot capture the complex non-linear dynamics that biological synapses exhibit and thus, are insufficient in representing synaptic behavior accurately. Existing detailed mechanistic synapse models can replicate these non-linear dynamics by modeling the underlying kinetics of biological synapses, but their high complexity prevents them from being a suitable option in large-scale models due to long simulation times. This motivates the development of more parsimonious models that can capture the complex non-linear dynamics of synapses accurately while maintaining a minimal computational cost. We propose a look-up table approach that stores precomputed values thereby circumventing most computations at runtime and enabling extremely fast simulations for glutamatergic receptors AMPAr and NMDAr. Our results demonstrate that this methodology is capable of replicating the dynamics of biological synapses as accurately as the mechanistic synapse models while offering up to a 56-fold increase in speed. This powerful approach allows for multi-scale neuronal networks to be simulated at large scales, enabling the investigation of how low-level synaptic activity may lead to changes in high-level phenomena, such as memory and learning.

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