Cosyne 2018 Workshop

The multiple facets of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity: shaping circuits, generating representations, modulating behavior

Activity dependent synaptic plasticity is considered to underlie learning and formation of new memories in a variety of different environments. This process was originally dissected at the level of single synapses, which allowed us to generate quantitative relationships between patterns of neural activity at presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons and the observed temporal evolution of synaptic strength. This has allowed us to make significant progress in characterizing learning rule like Spike-Timing-Dependent Plasticity and to make powerful theoretical predictions about the role of these rules in generating input selectivity, mostly in feedforward networks with well-defined presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons. However, several challenges remain: how can we understand synaptic plasticity in recurrent circuits, how does plasticity at electrical synapses differ from that at chemical synapses, how does plasticity at excitatory and inhibitory synapses interact, how is plasticity modulated during behavior by powerful modulators which can fundamentally change the underlying learning rules? In the present workshop, we bring together experimentalists and theorists to address these questions at several different levels, ranging from dendrites, to single neurons, to circuits and behavior. With the development of novel recording techniques that give us access to circuits operating in vivo where we can practically watch animals learn, and the establishment of novel theoretical methods that allow us to characterize how local circuit changes influence circuit output at large, we are now in the unique position to study the multiple facets of activity dependent plasticity – not just as a mechanism that characterizes synaptic strength at the single synapse, but as a framework that underlies large scale circuit formation, generation of sensory representations and modulation of behavior.


We have invited an exciting list of international speakers ranging from theorists to experimentalists who study these different aspects of activity dependent plasticity. The goal of the workshop is not only to discuss recent advances, but also to bridge levels and trigger new hypotheses about the potential of neural circuits to change in so many ways due to ongoing activity of its component neurons through activity dependent plasticity.

Our workshop will be held on 6 March 2018 (Tuesday) in Beaver Run Resort, Breckenridge, Colorado, room: Peaks 15. 

Please remember to register at



Yoram Burak, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel – theorist 

Titile: How high-order synaptic interactions shape the global structure of recurrent neural circuits


Claudia Clopath, Imperial College London UK – theorist

Title: Acetylcholine-modulated plasticity in reward-driven navigation: a computational study


Julie Haas, Lehigh University, USA – experimentalist

Title: Activity rules of electrical synapse plasticity, and impact on thalamic relay


Ben Donsung Huh, Gatsby Computational Unit, UK – theorist

Title: Spike-time dependent gradient-descent learning


Kishore Kuchibhotla, Johns Hopkins University, USA – experimentalist

Title: Dissociating task acquisition from expression during learning reveals latent knowledge


Johannes Letzkus, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany – experimentalist

Title: Learning-related plasticity of dendritic encoding


Gabe Ocker, Allen Institute, USA – theorist 

Title: Stability and selectivity in spike time-dependent plasticity


Maria Geffen, University of Pennsylvania, USA – experimentalist

Title: Cortical circuits for dynamic auditory perception


Julijana Gjorgjieva, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany – theorist 

Title: Spontaneous activity drives plasticity in the developing cortex


Henning Sprekeler, Technical University, Berlin, Germany – theorist 

Title: Inhibitory plasticity: A tale of specificity