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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Oct;110(7):1672-88. doi: 10.1152/jn.00051.2013. Epub 2013 Jul 17.

Predicting spike timing in highly synchronous auditory neurons at different sound levels.

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Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, CNRS, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France;


A challenge for sensory systems is to encode natural signals that vary in amplitude by orders of magnitude. The spike trains of neurons in the auditory system must represent the fine temporal structure of sounds despite a tremendous variation in sound level in natural environments. It has been shown in vitro that the transformation from dynamic signals into precise spike trains can be accurately captured by simple integrate-and-fire models. In this work, we show that the in vivo responses of cochlear nucleus bushy cells to sounds across a wide range of levels can be precisely predicted by deterministic integrate-and-fire models with adaptive spike threshold. Our model can predict both the spike timings and the firing rate in response to novel sounds, across a large input level range. A noisy version of the model accounts for the statistical structure of spike trains, including the reliability and temporal precision of responses. Spike threshold adaptation was critical to ensure that predictions remain accurate at different levels. These results confirm that simple integrate-and-fire models provide an accurate phenomenological account of spike train statistics and emphasize the functional relevance of spike threshold adaptation.


bushy cell; level invariance; spike threshold adaptation; temporal coding

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