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Front Comput Neurosci. 2014 Jun 6;8:59. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2014.00059. eCollection 2014.

On how correlations between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs maximize the information rate of neuronal firing.

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Department of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH, USA.


Cortical neurons receive barrages of excitatory and inhibitory inputs which are not independent, as network structure and synaptic kinetics impose statistical correlations. Experiments in vitro and in vivo have demonstrated correlations between inhibitory and excitatory synaptic inputs in which inhibition lags behind excitation in cortical neurons. This delay arises in feed-forward inhibition (FFI) circuits and ensures that coincident excitation and inhibition do not preclude neuronal firing. Conversely, inhibition that is too delayed broadens neuronal integration times, thereby diminishing spike-time precision and increasing the firing frequency. This led us to hypothesize that the correlation between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs modulates the encoding of information of neural spike trains. We tested this hypothesis by investigating the effect of such correlations on the information rate (IR) of spike trains using the Hodgkin-Huxley model in which both synaptic and membrane conductances are stochastic. We investigated two different synaptic input regimes: balanced synaptic conductances and balanced currents. Our results show that correlations arising from the synaptic kinetics, τ, and millisecond lags, δ, of inhibition relative to excitation strongly affect the IR of spike trains. In the regime of balanced synaptic currents, for short time lags (δ ~ 1 ms) there is an optimal τ that maximizes the IR of the postsynaptic spike train. Given the short time scales for monosynaptic inhibitory lags and synaptic decay kinetics reported in cortical neurons under physiological contexts, we propose that FFI in cortical circuits is poised to maximize the rate of information transfer between cortical neurons. Our results also provide a possible explanation for how certain drugs and genetic mutations affecting the synaptic kinetics can deteriorate information processing in the brain.


feed-forward inhibition; information; input correlation; stochastic Hodgkin-Huxley model; synaptic kinetics

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