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Nat Neurosci. 2013 Jul;16(7):942-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.3431. Epub 2013 Jun 9.

Temporal whitening by power-law adaptation in neocortical neurons.

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School of Computer and Communication Sciences and School of Life Science, Brain Mind Institute, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Spike-frequency adaptation (SFA) is widespread in the CNS, but its function remains unclear. In neocortical pyramidal neurons, adaptation manifests itself by an increase in the firing threshold and by adaptation currents triggered after each spike. Combining electrophysiological recordings in mice with modeling, we found that these adaptation processes lasted for more than 20 s and decayed over multiple timescales according to a power law. The power-law decay associated with adaptation mirrored and canceled the temporal correlations of input current received in vivo at the somata of layer 2/3 somatosensory pyramidal neurons. These findings suggest that, in the cortex, SFA causes temporal decorrelation of output spikes (temporal whitening), an energy-efficient coding procedure that, at high signal-to-noise ratio, improves the information transfer.

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