Questioning the role of sparse coding in the brain.

Anton Spanne, Henrik Jörntell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (SciVal)


Coding principles are central to understanding the organization of brain circuitry. Sparse coding offers several advantages, but a near-consensus has developed that it only has beneficial properties, and these are partially unique to sparse coding. We find that these advantages come at the cost of several trade-offs, with the lower capacity for generalization being especially problematic, and the value of sparse coding as a measure and its experimental support are both questionable. Furthermore, silent synapses and inhibitory interneurons can permit learning speed and memory capacity that was previously ascribed to sparse coding only. Combining these properties without exaggerated sparse coding improves the capacity for generalization and facilitates learning of models of a complex and high-dimensional reality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-427
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences


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