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J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Dec;22(12):1239-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02068.x.

Reading between the spikes of the hypothalamic neural code.

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Department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology, University College London, London, UK.


Reading the spike coding of hypothalamic neurones presents a considerable challenge because they exhibit highly irregular firing patterns. Electrophysiologists working in the motor and sensory systems, in which neurones fire more regularly, have devised satisfactory methods to describe the firing of cells, although the statistical assumptions that underlie the methods do not apply to hypothalamic neurones. Measurement of neural activity is nevertheless vital to characterise the activity of neuroendocrine cells. It has thus become necessary to develop methods suitable for the analysis of the highly irregular spike discharge patterns of both spontaneous and stimulus-evoked firing of hypothalamic neurones. We review techniques used to meet this challenge and demonstrate their considerable capacity to address important physiological questions. We also introduce a novel approach for valid statistical estimation of the information conveyed by the response of a single neurone to a periodic stimulus. The approach demonstrated significant diurnal rhythms of synaptic connectivity between hypothalamic nuclei.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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