Homeostasis and synaptic scaling : a theoretical perspective



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Abstract The synaptic input received by neurons in cortical circuits is in constant flux. From both environmental sensory changes and learning mechanisms that modify synaptic strengths, the excitatory and inhibitory signals received by a post-synaptic cell vary on a continuum of time scales. These variable inputs inherent in different sensory environments, as well as inputs changed by Hebbian learning mechanisms (which have been shown to destabilize the activity of neural circuits) serve to limit the input ranges over which a neural network can effectively operate. To avoid circuit behavior which is either quiescent or epileptic, there are a variety of homeostatic mechanisms in place to maintain proper levels of circuit activity. This article provides a basic overview of the biological mechanisms, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of homeostasis on a theoretical level.