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Front Comput Neurosci. 2012 May 7;6:23. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00023. eCollection 2012.

Population coding in sparsely connected networks of noisy neurons.

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  • 1Department of Systems Design Engineering, Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, University of Waterloo, Waterloo ON, Canada.


This study examines the relationship between population coding and spatial connection statistics in networks of noisy neurons. Encoding of sensory information in the neocortex is thought to require coordinated neural populations, because individual cortical neurons respond to a wide range of stimuli, and exhibit highly variable spiking in response to repeated stimuli. Population coding is rooted in network structure, because cortical neurons receive information only from other neurons, and because the information they encode must be decoded by other neurons, if it is to affect behavior. However, population coding theory has often ignored network structure, or assumed discrete, fully connected populations (in contrast with the sparsely connected, continuous sheet of the cortex). In this study, we modeled a sheet of cortical neurons with sparse, primarily local connections, and found that a network with this structure could encode multiple internal state variables with high signal-to-noise ratio. However, we were unable to create high-fidelity networks by instantiating connections at random according to spatial connection probabilities. In our models, high-fidelity networks required additional structure, with higher cluster factors and correlations between the inputs to nearby neurons.


layer 2/3; network dynamics; network structure; neural networks; non-negative matrix factorization; population coding; singular value decomposition

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