Mathematics, Department of


Date of this Version



Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 11 July 2011.


Networks of neurons in some brain areas are flexible enough to encode new memories quickly. Using a standard firing rate model of recurrent networks, we develop a theory of flexible memory networks. Our main results characterize networks having the maximal number of flexible memory patterns, given a constraint graph on the network’s connectivity matrix. Modulo a mild topological condition, we find a close connection between maximally flexible networks and rank 1 matrices. The topological condition is H1(X;Z) = 0, where X is the clique complex associated to the network’s constraint graph; this condition is generically satisfied for large random networks that are not overly sparse. In order to prove our main results, we develop some matrix-theoretic tools and present them in a self-contained section independent of the neuroscience context.