Multiple forms of working memory emerge from synapse-astrocyte interactions in a neuron-glia network model
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Persistent activity in populations of neurons, time-varying activity across a neural population, or activity-silent mechanisms carried out by hidden internal states of the neural population have been proposed as different mechanisms of working memory (WM). Whether these mechanisms could be mutually exclusive or occur in the same neuronal circuit remains, however, elusive, and so do their biophysical underpinnings. While WM is traditionally regarded to depend purely on neuronal mechanisms, cortical networks also include astrocytes that can modulate neural activity. We propose and investigate a network model that includes both neurons and glia and show that glia-synapse interactions can lead to multiple stable states of synaptic transmission. Depending on parameters, these interactions can lead in turn to distinct patterns of network activity that can serve as substrates for WM.