Decoding stimulus variance from a distributional neural code of interspike intervals

Brian Nils Lundstrom, Adrienne L. Fairhall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The spiking output of an individual neuron can represent information about the stimulus via mean rate, absolute spike time, and the time intervals between spikes. Here we discuss a distinct form of information representation, the local distribution of spike intervals, and show that the time-varying distribution of interspike intervals (ISIs) can represent parameters of the statistical context of stimuli. For many sensory neural systems the mapping between the stimulus input and spiking output is not fixed but, rather, depends on the statistical properties of the stimulus, potentially leading to ambiguity. We have shown previously that for the adaptive neural code of the fly H1, a motion-sensitive neuron in the fly visual system, information about the overall variance of the signal is obtainable from the ISI distribution. We now demonstrate the decoding of information about variance and show that a distributional code of ISIs can resolve ambiguities introduced by slow spike frequency adaptation. We examine the precision of this distributional code for the representation of stimulus variance in the H1 neuron as well as in the Hodgkin-Huxley model neuron. We find that the accuracy of the decoding depends on the shapes of the ISI distributions and the speed with which they adapt to new stimulus variances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9030-9037
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 30 2006


  • Adaptation
  • Computation
  • Information theory
  • Invertebrate
  • Neural coding
  • Noise
  • Spike patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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