Buzsaki, in his paper Neural Syntax: Cell Assemblies, Synapsembles, and Readers, seems to suggest that instead of using synaptic strength and connectivity as a defining feature, a (dynamically changing constellation of) neural cell assemblies could instead be classified based on the impact/output caused by their target "reader" neurons.

Primary question: Is this an accurate reading of the argument?

His argument, in my understanding, is that the strength of upstream connectivities may not have a biologically meaningful significance unless the downstream potential is interpreted and acted on by the target reader neuron. Hence, interpreting the output/impact caused by the action potential of the reader neuron would provide insight into the nature of transiently formed assemblies as opposed to tracking down the linkages.

Therefore, while the synaptic strength of upstream neural assemblies increases the likelihood of stronger downstream potential, it need not be a requirement as even weakly connected upstream assemblies can gain significance if they activate the target layer. (Hence, the temporal window is a more deterministic classifier).

Secondary question: Are there any compelling counterarguments to this hypothesis in the literature? Ideally including data supporting one hypothesis or another?

  • $\begingroup$ It would be helpful to link to the paper or provide a full reference. I'm not sure the question is answerable with anything but opinion and discussion though. Your post also seems to take as a straw man the idea that strength of connection is otherwise the sole defining feature - is anyone arguing that? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Mar 31 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ you might consider having this quesiton migrated to the psych/neuroscience SE. That might yield a slightly more relevant/expert group. I also second the suggestion to link the paper directly and try to find a more specific/answerable framing. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MaximilianPress thank you for the edit. How do I migrate the question to the Psych platform? I did attach a link to the paper ( does it not open for you?)... but I guess it will be difficult to refer to one single paragraph since the question demands an understanding of the the whole concept of neural syntax that Buzsaki is getting at. Maybe I will let the question stay for a few weeks to see if anyone responds. $\endgroup$
    – aztec242
    Commented Apr 1 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ Your original question did not have any link as you can see in the edit history: biology.stackexchange.com/revisions/114414/1 I don't know why you are mentioning "refer to one single paragraph" - no one has suggested you do that? I can migrate the question if you want; there is no way a user can do it on their own besides deleting and re-posting. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 1 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MaximilianPress I think the edited question is not really quite right: I would not describe this as a hypothesis per se. It's an opinion; a scientific one, but still, an opinion. Like if someone said "the most important defining feature of a good meal is a balance of acid and fat", that's something where they can provide evidence of the importance of acid and fat but the "most important" part is necessarily opinion. That's what Buzsaki is saying: think about the outputs. Of course the outputs are connections, so saying "rather than connection weights" is also a bit misleading. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 1 at 12:59


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