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Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Mar;19(3):162-72. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Feb 7.

Neural population coding: combining insights from microscopic and mass signals.

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Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Corso Bettini 31, 38068 Rovereto, Italy; Department of Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Spemannstrasse 38, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:
Neural Computation and Behaviour Group, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Spemannstrasse 41, 72076 Tübingen, Germany; Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Tübingen, Germany; Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience Tübingen, Germany.
Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QB, UK.


Behavior relies on the distributed and coordinated activity of neural populations. Population activity can be measured using multi-neuron recordings and neuroimaging. Neural recordings reveal how the heterogeneity, sparseness, timing, and correlation of population activity shape information processing in local networks, whereas neuroimaging shows how long-range coupling and brain states impact on local activity and perception. To obtain an integrated perspective on neural information processing we need to combine knowledge from both levels of investigation. We review recent progress of how neural recordings, neuroimaging, and computational approaches begin to elucidate how interactions between local neural population activity and large-scale dynamics shape the structure and coding capacity of local information representations, make them state-dependent, and control distributed populations that collectively shape behavior.


cross-correlation; multiscale processing; neural code; neuroimaging; oscillation; relative timing; sensory processing; state-dependent coding

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