Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(4):e1002461. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002461. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Power-law inter-spike interval distributions infer a conditional maximization of entropy in cortical neurons.

Author information

Laboratory for Neural Circuit Theory, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Saitama, Japan.


The brain is considered to use a relatively small amount of energy for its efficient information processing. Under a severe restriction on the energy consumption, the maximization of mutual information (MMI), which is adequate for designing artificial processing machines, may not suit for the brain. The MMI attempts to send information as accurate as possible and this usually requires a sufficient energy supply for establishing clearly discretized communication bands. Here, we derive an alternative hypothesis for neural code from the neuronal activities recorded juxtacellularly in the sensorimotor cortex of behaving rats. Our hypothesis states that in vivo cortical neurons maximize the entropy of neuronal firing under two constraints, one limiting the energy consumption (as assumed previously) and one restricting the uncertainty in output spike sequences at given firing rate. Thus, the conditional maximization of firing-rate entropy (CMFE) solves a tradeoff between the energy cost and noise in neuronal response. In short, the CMFE sends a rich variety of information through broader communication bands (i.e., widely distributed firing rates) at the cost of accuracy. We demonstrate that the CMFE is reflected in the long-tailed, typically power law, distributions of inter-spike intervals obtained for the majority of recorded neurons. In other words, the power-law tails are more consistent with the CMFE rather than the MMI. Thus, we propose the mathematical principle by which cortical neurons may represent information about synaptic input into their output spike trains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center