The sloppy relationship between neural circuit structure and function

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Abstract Investigating and describing the relationships between the structure of a circuit and its function has a long tradition in neuroscience. Since neural circuits acquire their structure through sophisticated developmental programmes, and memories and experiences are maintained through synaptic modification, it is to be expected that structure is closely linked to function. Recent findings challenge this hypothesis from three different angles: function does not strongly constrain circuit parameters, many parameters in neural circuits are irrelevant and contribute little to function, and circuit parameters are unstable and subject to constant random drift. At the same time, however, recent work also showed that dynamics in neural circuit activity that is related to function are robust over time and across individuals. Here this apparent contradiction is addressed by considering the properties of neural manifolds that restrict circuit activity to functionally relevant subspaces, and it will be suggested that degenerate, anisotropic and unstable parameter spaces are closely related to the structure and implementation of functionally relevant neural manifolds.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Early online date8 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Aug 2022


  • neural circuits
  • neural manifolds
  • parameter spaces
  • sloppines


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