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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2014 Apr;25:140-8. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Feb 1.

Emerging principles of population coding: in search for the neural code.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er-Sheva, Israel; Department of Physics, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er-Sheva, Israel. Electronic address:


Population coding theory aims to provide quantitative tests for hypotheses concerning the neural code. Over the last two decades theory has focused on analyzing the ways in which various parameters that characterize neuronal responses to external stimuli affect the information content of these responses. This article reviews and provides an intuitive explanation for the major effects of noise correlations and neuronal heterogeneity, and discusses their implications for our ability to investigate the neural code. It is argued that to test neural code hypotheses further, additional constraints are required, including relating trial-to-trial variation in neuronal population responses to behavioral decisions and specifying how information is decoded by downstream networks.

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