I am aware of the mechanism of Spike Timing Dependent Plasticity (STDP) and its ability to cause Long Term Potentiation (LTP) and Long Term Depression (LTD). So far, I've been viewing neurons as input-output devices. However, there seems to be a problem with approximating neurons this way. If all they do is sum the inputs and produce an output, then it seems as if LTP and LTD as caused by STDP would be purely a function of the inputs from the environment. This would leave animals without any meaningful agency.

I would be much more comfortable with the idea that neurons actively try to optimize some parameters by competing with each other, perhaps by varying the timing of their spikes. Is this picture consistent with neuro-scientific findings?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't have time to look into this and form a proper answer, but if I were to guess at an answer, with regards to each individual neuron, they don't really have any 'agency', other than differences between their proteins, ion channel expression etc. However across a network of neurons, there would be some correlation of activity that drove patterns of excitation/inhibition that could be considered agency. You might look into developmental spontaneous activity that is important for formation of sensory circuits in the visual and audio systems to see if that fits with your idea. $\endgroup$ – Oliver Houston Jan 28 '18 at 17:16

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