Stochastic facilitation in heteroclinic communication channels
Biological neural systems encode and transmit information as patterns of activity tracing complex trajectories in high-dimensional state spaces, inspiring alternative paradigms of information processing. Heteroclinic networks, naturally emerging in artificial neural systems, are networks of saddles in state space that provide a transparent approach to generate complex trajectories via controlled switches among interconnected saddles. External signals induce specific switching sequences, thus dynamically encoding inputs as trajectories. Recent works have focused either on computational aspects of heteroclinic networks, i.e., Heteroclinic Computing, or their stochastic properties under noise. Yet, how well such systems may transmit information remains an open question. Here, we investigate the information transmission properties of heteroclinic networks, studying them as communication channels. Choosing a tractable but representative system exhibiting a heteroclinic network, we investigate the mutual information rate (MIR) between input signals and the resulting sequences of states as the level of noise varies. Intriguingly, MIR does not decrease monotonically with increasing noise. Intermediate noise levels indeed maximize the information transmission capacity by promoting an increased yet controlled exploration of the underlying network of states. Complementing standard stochastic resonance, these results highlight the constructive effect of stochastic facilitation (i.e., noise-enhanced information transfer) on heteroclinic communication channels and possibly on more general dynamical systems exhibiting complex trajectories in state space.