On optimal information storage in synapses

Lav R. Varshney, Dmitri B. Chklovskii

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Among the functions of the brain is information storage, which is physically implemented through changes in the strengths of synapses. Experimental investigations have revealed that synapses possess interesting and, in some cases, unexpected properties. Adopting the optimization approach to biology, we describe an information theoretic framework that accounts for several of these properties: typical central synapses are noisy, the distribution of synaptic weights among central synapses is wide, and synaptic connectivity between neurons is sparse. Our approach is based on maximizing channel capacity of neural tissue under resource constraints. We cast volume as a limited resource and utilize the empirical relationship between volume and synaptic strength. We find that capacity-achieving input distributions not only explain existing experimental measurements but also make non-trivial predictions about the physical structure of the mammalian brain. We also comment on the robustness of our optimization principles to uncertainties that are inherent in science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2007 IEEE Information Theory Workshop, ITW 2007, Proceedings
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Event2007 IEEE Information Theory Workshop, ITW 2007 - Lake Tahoe, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 2 2007Sep 6 2007

Publication series

Name2007 IEEE Information Theory Workshop, ITW 2007, Proceedings


Other2007 IEEE Information Theory Workshop, ITW 2007
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLake Tahoe, CA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Information Systems
  • Information Systems and Management


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