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Free, publiclyaccessible full text available January 8, 2025

Biological neural computation is inherently asynchronous due to large variations in neuronal spike timing and transmission delays. Sofar, most theoretical work on neural networks assumes the synchronous setting where neurons fire simultaneously in discrete rounds. In this work we aim at understanding the barriers of asynchronous neural computation from an algorithmic perspective. We consider an extension of the widely studied model of synchronized spiking neurons [Maass, Neural= Networks 97] to the asynchronous setting by taking into account edge and node delays. Edge Delays: We define an asynchronous model for spiking neurons in which the latency values (i.e., transmission delays) of non selfloop edges vary adversarially over time. This extends the recent work of [Hitron and Parter, ESA’19] in which the latency values are restricted to be fixed over time. Our first contribution is an impossibility result that implies that the assumption that selfloop edges have no delays (as assumed in Hitron and Parter) is indeed necessary. Interestingly, in real biological networks selfloop edges (a.k.a. autapse) are indeed free of delays, and the latter has been noted by neuroscientists to be crucial for network synchronization. To capture the computational challenges in this setting, we first consider the implementation of a single NOT gate. This simple function already captures the fundamental difficulties in the asynchronous setting. Our key technical results are space and time upper and lower bounds for the NOT function, our time bounds are tight. In the spirit of the distributed synchronizers [Awerbuch and Peleg, FOCS’90] and following [Hitron and Parter, ESA’19], we then provide a general synchronizer machinery. Our construction is very modular and it is based on efficient circuit implementation of threshold gates. The complexity of our scheme is measured by the overhead in the number of neurons and the computation time, both are shown to be polynomial in the largest latency value, and the largest incoming degree ∆ of the original network. Node Delays: We introduce the study of asynchronous communication due to variations in the response rates of the neurons in the network. In real brain networks, the round duration varies between different neurons in the network. Our key result is a simulation methodology that allows one to transform the above mentioned synchronized solution under edge delays into a synchronized under node delays while incurring a small overhead w.r.t space and time.more » « less

We initiate the study of biologicallyinspired spiking neural networks from the perspective of streaming algorithms. Like computers, human brains face memory limitations, which pose a significant obstacle when processing large scale and dynamically changing data. In computer science, these challenges are captured by the wellknown streaming model, which can be traced back to Munro and Paterson `78 and has had significant impact in theory and beyond. In the classical streaming setting, one must compute a function f of a stream of updates 𝒮 = {u₁,…,u_m}, given restricted singlepass access to the stream. The primary complexity measure is the space used by the algorithm. In contrast to the large body of work on streaming algorithms, relatively little is known about the computational aspects of data processing in spiking neural networks. In this work, we seek to connect these two models, leveraging techniques developed for streaming algorithms to better understand neural computation. Our primary goal is to design networks for various computational tasks using as few auxiliary (noninput or output) neurons as possible. The number of auxiliary neurons can be thought of as the "space" required by the network. Previous algorithmic work in spiking neural networks has many similarities with streaming algorithms. However, the connection between these two spacelimited models has not been formally addressed. We take the first steps towards understanding this connection. On the upper bound side, we design neural algorithms based on known streaming algorithms for fundamental tasks, including distinct elements, approximate median, and heavy hitters. The number of neurons in our solutions almost match the space bounds of the corresponding streaming algorithms. As a general algorithmic primitive, we show how to implement the important streaming technique of linear sketching efficiently in spiking neural networks. On the lower bound side, we give a generic reduction, showing that any spaceefficient spiking neural network can be simulated by a spaceefficient streaming algorithm. This reduction lets us translate streamingspace lower bounds into nearly matching neuralspace lower bounds, establishing a close connection between the two models.more » « less