Analysis of an Attractor Neural Network’s Response to Conflicting External Inputs

Kathryn Hedrick, Kechen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The theory of attractor neural networks has been influential in our understanding of the neural processes underlying spatial, declarative, and episodic memory. Many theoretical studies focus on the inherent properties of an attractor, such as its structure and capacity. Relatively little is known about how an attractor neural network responds to external inputs, which often carry conflicting information about a stimulus. In this paper we analyze the behavior of an attractor neural network driven by two conflicting external inputs. Our focus is on analyzing the emergent properties of the megamap model, a quasi-continuous attractor network in which place cells are flexibly recombined to represent a large spatial environment. In this model, the system shows a sharp transition from the winner-take-all mode, which is characteristic of standard continuous attractor neural networks, to a combinatorial mode in which the equilibrium activity pattern combines embedded attractor states in response to conflicting external inputs. We derive a numerical test for determining the operational mode of the system a priori. We then derive a linear transformation from the full megamap model with thousands of neurons to a reduced 2-unit model that has similar qualitative behavior. Our analysis of the reduced model and explicit expressions relating the parameters of the reduced model to the megamap elucidate the conditions under which the combinatorial mode emerges and the dynamics in each mode given the relative strength of the attractor network and the relative strength of the two conflicting inputs. Although we focus on a particular attractor network model, we describe a set of conditions under which our analysis can be applied to more general attractor neural networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of Mathematical Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


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