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Nat Neurosci. 2012 Feb 12;15(3):441-8, S1-2. doi: 10.1038/nn.3044.

Disentangling the functional consequences of the connectivity between optic-flow processing neurons.

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Department of Systems and Computational Neurobiology, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany.


Typically, neurons in sensory areas are highly interconnected. Coupling two neurons can synchronize their activity and affect a variety of single-cell properties, such as their stimulus tuning, firing rate or gain. All of these factors must be considered to understand how two neurons should be coupled to optimally process stimuli. We quantified the functional effect of an interaction between two optic-flow processing neurons (Vi and H1) in the fly (Lucilia sericata). Using a generative model, we estimated a uni-directional coupling from H1 to Vi. Especially at a low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), the coupling strongly improved the information about optic-flow in Vi. We identified two constraints confining the strength of the interaction. First, for weak couplings, Vi benefited from inputs by H1 without a concomitant shift of its stimulus tuning. Second, at both low and high SNR, the coupling strength lay in a range in which the information carried by single spikes is optimal.

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