Learning and processing the ordinal information of temporal sequences in recurrent neural circuits

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


xiaolong zou, Zhikun Chu, Qinghai Guo, Jie Cheng, Bo Ho, Si Wu, Yuanyuan Mi


Temporal sequence processing is fundamental in brain cognitive functions. Experimental data has indicated that the representations of ordinal information and contents of temporal sequences are disentangled in the brain, but the neural mechanism underlying this disentanglement remains largely unclear. Here, we investigate how recurrent neural circuits learn to represent the abstract order structure of temporal sequences, and how this disentangled representation of order structure from that of contents facilitates the processing of temporal sequences. We show that with an appropriate learn protocol, a recurrent neural circuit can learn a set of tree-structured attractor states to encode the corresponding tree-structured orders of given temporal sequences. This abstract temporal order template can then be bound with different contents, allowing for flexible and robust temporal sequence processing. Using a transfer learning task, we demonstrate that the reuse of a temporal order template facilitates the acquisition of new temporal sequences of the same or similar ordinal structure. Using a key-word spotting task, we demonstrate that the attractor representation of order structure improves the robustness of temporal sequence discrimination, if the ordinal information is the key to differentiate different sequences. We hope this study gives us insights into the neural mechanism of representing the ordinal information of temporal sequences in the brain, and helps us to develop brain-inspired temporal sequence processing algorithms.