Predictive coding (PC) is an influential theory in neuroscience, which suggests the existence of a cortical architecture that is constantly generating and updating predictive representations of sensory inputs. Owing to its hierarchical and generative nature, PC has inspired many computational models of perception in the literature. However, the biological plausibility of existing models has not been sufficiently explored due to their use of artificial neurons that approximate neural activity with firing rates in the continuous time domain and propagate signals synchronously. Therefore, we developed a spiking neural network for predictive coding (SNN-PC), in which neurons communicate using event-driven and asynchronous spikes. Adopting the hierarchical structure and Hebbian learning algorithms from previous PC neural network models, SNN-PC introduces two novel features: (1) a fast feedforward sweep from the input to higher areas, which generates a spatially reduced and abstract representation of input (i.e., a neural code for the gist of a scene) and provides a neurobiological alternative to an arbitrary choice of priors; and (2) a separation of positive and negative error-computing neurons, which counters the biological implausibility of a bi-directional error neuron with a very high baseline firing rate. After training with the MNIST handwritten digit dataset, SNN-PC developed hierarchical internal representations and was able to reconstruct samples it had not seen during training. SNN-PC suggests biologically plausible mechanisms by which the brain may perform perceptual inference and learning in an unsupervised manner. In addition, it may be used in neuromorphic applications that can utilize its energy-efficient, event-driven, local learning, and parallel information processing nature.

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Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience
Human Brain Project - SGA3

Lee, K., Dora, S., Mejias, J., Bohte, S., & Pennartz, C. (2024). Predictive coding with spiking neurons and feedforward gist signaling. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 18. doi:10.3389/fncom.2024.1338280