Thèse de doctorat
Résumé : For the last twenty years, several assumptions have been expressed in the fields of information processing, neurophysiology and cognitive sciences. First, neural networks and their dynamical behaviors in terms of attractors is the natural way adopted by the brain to encode information. Any information item to be stored in the neural network should be coded in some way or another in one of the dynamical attractors of the brain, and retrieved by stimulating the network to trap its dynamics in the desired item’s basin of attraction. The second view shared by neural network researchers is to base the learning of the synaptic matrix on a local Hebbian mechanism. The third assumption is the presence of chaos and the benefit gained by its presence. Chaos, although very simply produced, inherently possesses an infinite amount of cyclic regimes that can be exploited for coding information. Moreover, the network randomly wanders around these unstable regimes in a spontaneous way, thus rapidly proposing alternative responses to external stimuli, and being easily able to switch from one of these potential attractors to another in response to any incoming stimulus. Finally, since their introduction sixty years ago, cell assemblies have proved to be a powerful paradigm for brain information processing. After their introduction in artificial intelligence, cell assemblies became commonly used in computational neuroscience as a neural substrate for content addressable memories.

Based on these assumptions, this thesis provides a computer model of neural network simulation of a brain-like memory. It first shows experimentally that the more information is to be stored in robust cyclic attractors, the more chaos appears as a regime in the background, erratically itinerating among brief appearances of these attractors. Chaos does not appear to be the cause, but the consequence of the learning. However, it appears as an helpful consequence that widens the network’s encoding capacity. To learn the information to be stored, two supervised iterative Hebbian learning algorithm are proposed. One leaves the semantics of the attractors to be associated with the feeding data unprescribed, while the other defines it a priori. Both algorithms show good results, even though the first one is more robust and has a greater storing capacity. Using these promising results, a biologically plausible alternative to these algorithms is proposed using cell assemblies as substrate for information. Even though this is not new, the mechanisms underlying their formation are poorly understood and, so far, there are no biologically plausible algorithms that can explain how external stimuli can be online stored in cell assemblies. This thesis provide such a solution combining a fast Hebbian/anti-Hebbian learning of the network's recurrent connections for the creation of new cell assemblies, and a slower feedback signal which stabilizes the cell assemblies by learning the feed forward input connections. This last mechanism is inspired by the retroaxonal hypothesis.