Effects of Synaptic Weight Diffusion on Learning in Decision Making Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS 2010)

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Kentaro Katahira, Kazuo Okanoya, Masato Okada


When animals repeatedly choose actions from multiple alternatives, they can allocate their choices stochastically depending on past actions and outcomes. It is commonly assumed that this ability is achieved by modifications in synaptic weights related to decision making. Choice behavior has been empirically found to follow Herrnstein’s matching law. Loewenstein & Seung (2006) demonstrated that matching behavior is a steady state of learning in neural networks if the synaptic weights change proportionally to the covariance between reward and neural activities. However, their proof did not take into account the change in entire synaptic distributions. In this study, we show that matching behavior is not necessarily a steady state of the covariance-based learning rule when the synaptic strength is sufficiently strong so that the fluctuations in input from individual sensory neurons influence the net input to output neurons. This is caused by the increasing variance in the input potential due to the diffusion of synaptic weights. This effect causes an undermatching phenomenon, which has been observed in many behavioral experiments. We suggest that the synaptic diffusion effects provide a robust neural mechanism for stochastic choice behavior.