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Open Access Research article

Imbalanced pattern completion vs. separation in cognitive disease: network simulations of synaptic pathologies predict a personalized therapeutics strategy

Jesse E Hanson12* and Daniel V Madison1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

2 Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, California 94080, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:96  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-96

Published: 13 August 2010



Diverse Mouse genetic models of neurodevelopmental, neuropsychiatric, and neurodegenerative causes of impaired cognition exhibit at least four convergent points of synaptic malfunction: 1) Strength of long-term potentiation (LTP), 2) Strength of long-term depression (LTD), 3) Relative inhibition levels (Inhibition), and 4) Excitatory connectivity levels (Connectivity).


To test the hypothesis that pathological increases or decreases in these synaptic properties could underlie imbalances at the level of basic neural network function, we explored each type of malfunction in a simulation of autoassociative memory. These network simulations revealed that one impact of impairments or excesses in each of these synaptic properties is to shift the trade-off between pattern separation and pattern completion performance during memory storage and recall. Each type of synaptic pathology either pushed the network balance towards intolerable error in pattern separation or intolerable error in pattern completion. Imbalances caused by pathological impairments or excesses in LTP, LTD, inhibition, or connectivity, could all be exacerbated, or rescued, by the simultaneous modulation of any of the other three synaptic properties.


Because appropriate modulation of any of the synaptic properties could help re-balance network function, regardless of the origins of the imbalance, we propose a new strategy of personalized cognitive therapeutics guided by assay of pattern completion vs. pattern separation function. Simulated examples and testable predictions of this theorized approach to cognitive therapeutics are presented.