3 years ago

Rate, not selectivity, determines neuronal population coding accuracy in auditory cortex

Dennis L. Barbour, Wensheng Sun
The notion that neurons with higher selectivity carry more information about external sensory inputs is widely accepted in neuroscience. High-selectivity neurons respond to a narrow range of sensory inputs, and thus would be considered highly informative by rejecting a large proportion of possible inputs. In auditory cortex, neuronal responses are less selective immediately after the onset of a sound and then become highly selective in the following sustained response epoch. These 2 temporal response epochs have thus been interpreted to encode first the presence and then the content of a sound input. Contrary to predictions from that prevailing theory, however, we found that the neural population conveys similar information about sound input across the 2 epochs in spite of the neuronal selectivity differences. The amount of information encoded turns out to be almost completely dependent upon the total number of population spikes in the read-out window for this system. Moreover, inhomogeneous Poisson spiking behavior is sufficient to account for this property. These results imply a novel principle of sensory encoding that is potentially shared widely among multiple sensory systems.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2002459

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