Modeling motor cortical operations by an attractor network of stochastic neurons
Understanding the neural computations performed by the motor cortex requires biologically plausible models that account for cell discharge patterns revealed by neurophysiological recordings. In the present study the motor cortical activity underlying movement generation is modeled as the dynamic evolution of a large fully recurrent network of stochastic spiking neurons with noise superimposed on the synaptic transmission. We show that neural representations of the learned movement trajectories can be stored in the connectivity matrix in such a way that, when activated, a particular trajectory evolves in time as a dynamic attractor of the system while individual neurons fire irregularly with large variability in their interspike intervals. Moreover, the encoding of trajectories as attractors ensures high stability of the ensemble dynamics in the presence of synaptic noise. In agreement with neurophysiological findings, the suggested model can provide a wide repertoire of specific motor behaviors, whereas the number of specialized cells and specific connections may be negligibly small if compared with the whole population engaged in trajectory retrieving. To examine the applicability of the model we study quantitatively the relationship between local geometrical and kinematic characteristics of the trajectories generated by the network. The relationship obtained as a result of simulations is close to the '2/3 power law' established by psychophysical and neurophysiological studies.