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A framework for plasticity implementation on the SpiNNaker neural architecture

Galluppi Francesco, Lagorce Xavier, Stromatias Evangelos, Pfeiffer Michael, Plana Luis A, Furber Steve B, Benosman Ryad Benjamin


Many of the precise biological mechanisms of synaptic plasticity remain elusive, but simulations of neural networks have greatly enhanced our understanding of how specific global functions arise from the massively parallel computation of neurons and local Hebbian or spike-timing dependent plasticity rules. For simulating large portions of neural tissue, this has created an increasingly strong need for large scale simulations of plastic neural networks on special purpose hardware platforms, because synaptic transmissions and updates are badly matched to computing style supported by current architectures. Because of the great diversity of biological plasticity phenomena and the corresponding diversity of models, there is a great need for testing various hypotheses about plasticity before committing to one hardware implementation. Here we present a novel framework for investigating different plasticity approaches on the SpiNNaker distributed digital neural simulation platform. The key innovation of the proposed architecture is to exploit the reconfigurability of the ARM processors inside SpiNNaker, dedicating a subset of them exclusively to process synaptic plasticity updates, while the rest perform the usual neural and synaptic simulations. We demonstrate the flexibility of the proposed approach by showing the implementation of a variety of spike- and rate-based learning rules, including standard Spike-Timing dependent plasticity (STDP), voltage-dependent STDP, and the rate-based BCM rule. We analyze their performance and validate them by running classical learning experiments in real time on a 4-chip SpiNNaker board. The result is an efficient, modular, flexible and scalable framework, which provides a valuable tool for the fast and easy exploration of learning models of very different kinds on the parallel and reconfigurable SpiNNaker system.