@reiver

Spontaneous Retinal Waves: Training Patterns for Initial Development of Cortex?

[V]isual development in nature is highly stable, and the visual cortex of most animals is partially organized already at birth (or eye-opening). Such robustness could be achieved with a specific, fixed blue print, but [...] there is not enough information available in the genome to represent it.

Recent experimental findings in neuroscience suggest that nature may have found a clever way to utilize self-organization to achieve the same result. Developing sensory systems are now known to be spontaneously active even before birth, i.e., before they could be learning from the environment (see O'Donovan 1999; Wong 1999 for reviews [...]). This spontaneous, internal activity may actually guide the process of cortical development, acting as genetically specified training patterns for a learning algorithm (Constantine-Paton, Cline, and Debski 1990; Hirsch 1985; Jouvet 1998; Kats and Shatz 1996; Marks, Shaffery, Oksenberg, Speciale, and Roffwarg 1995; Roffwarg, Muzio, and Dement 1996; Shatz 1990, 1996; Sur and Leamey 2001). For a biological species, being able to control the training patterns can guarantee that each organism has rudimentary level of performance from the start. Such training would also ensure that initial development does not depend on the details of the external environment. Thus, internally generated patterns can preserve the benefits of a blueprint, within a learning system capable of much higher complexity and performance.

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Constantine-Paton, M., Cline, H. T., and Debski, E. (1990). Patterned activity, synaptic convergence, and the NMDA receptor in developing visual pathways. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13:129-154.

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Hirsch, H. V. B. (1985). The role of visual experience in the development of cat striate cortex. Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, 5:103-121.

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Jouvet, M. (1998). Paradoxical sleep as a programming system. Journal of Sleep Research, 7:1-5.

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Katz, L. C., and Shatz, C. J. (1996). Synaptic activity and the construction of cortical circuits. Science, 274:1133-1138.

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Marks, G. A., Shaffery, J. P., Oksenberg, A., Speciale, S. G., and Roffwarg, H. P. (1995). A functional role for REM sleep in brain maturation. Behavioural Brain Research, 69:1-11.

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O'Donovan, M. J. (1999). The origin of spontaneous activity in developing networks of the vertebrate nervous system. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 9:94-104.

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Roffwarg, H. P., Muzio, J. N., and Dement, W. C. (1966). Ontogenetic development of the human sleep-dream cycle. Science, 152:604-619.

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Shatz, C. J. (1990). Impulse activity and the patterning of connections during CNS development. Neuron, 5:745-756.

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Shatz, C. J. (1996). Emergence of order in visual system development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 93:602-608.

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Sur, M., and Leamey, C. A. (2001). Development and plasticity of cortical areas and networks. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2:251-262.

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Wong, R. O. L. (1999). Retinal waves and visual system development. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 22:29-47.

-- Risto Miikkulainen , James A. Bednar , Yoonsuck Choe , Joseph Sirosh

from "Computational Maps in the Visual Cortex"

Quoted on Tue Nov 13th, 2012