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Cell Rep. 2017 May 9;19(6):1130-1140. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.04.050.

Multiplexed Spike Coding and Adaptation in the Thalamus.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Technische Universität München, Munich 81675, Germany; Neurobiology and Behavior Graduate Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Functional Neuroanatomy, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg 69120, Germany.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, Technische Universität München, Munich 81675, Germany.


High-frequency "burst" clusters of spikes are a generic output pattern of many neurons. While bursting is a ubiquitous computational feature of different nervous systems across animal species, the encoding of synaptic inputs by bursts is not well understood. We find that bursting neurons in the rodent thalamus employ "multiplexing" to differentially encode low- and high-frequency stimulus features associated with either T-type calcium "low-threshold" or fast sodium spiking events, respectively, and these events adapt differently. Thus, thalamic bursts encode disparate information in three channels: (1) burst size, (2) burst onset time, and (3) precise spike timing within bursts. Strikingly, this latter "intraburst" encoding channel shows millisecond-level feature selectivity and adapts across statistical contexts to maintain stable information encoded per spike. Consequently, calcium events both encode low-frequency stimuli and, in parallel, gate a transient window for high-frequency, adaptive stimulus encoding by sodium spike timing, allowing bursts to efficiently convey fine-scale temporal information.


T-type calcium channel; adaptation; bursting; excitability; linear-nonlinear model; multiplexing; neural coding; thalamocortical system

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