Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Dongqi Han, Erik De Schutter, Sungho Hong
Feedforward networks (FFN) are ubiquitous structures in neural systems and have been studied to understand mechanisms of reliable signal and information transmission. In many FFNs, neurons in one layer have intrinsic properties that are distinct from those in their pre-/postsynaptic layers, but how this affects network-level information processing remains unexplored. Here we show that layer-to-layer heterogeneity arising from lamina-specific cellular properties facilitates signal and information transmission in FFNs. Specifically, we found that signal transformations, made by each layer of neurons on an input-driven spike signal, demodulate signal distortions introduced by preceding layers. This mechanism boosts information transfer carried by a propagating spike signal, and thereby supports reliable spike signal and information transmission in a deep FFN. Our study suggests that distinct cell types in neural circuits, performing different computational functions, facilitate information processing on the whole.