Conversion of phase information into a spike-count code by bursting neurons

Samengo, Inés and Montemurro, Marcelo A. (2010). Conversion of phase information into a spike-count code by bursting neurons. PLoS ONE, 5(3), article no. e9669.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009669

Abstract

Single neurons in the cerebral cortex are immersed in a fluctuating electric field, the local field potential (LFP), which mainly originates from synchronous synaptic input into the local neural neighborhood. As shown by recent studies in visual and auditory cortices, the angular phase of the LFP at the time of spike generation adds significant extra information about the external world, beyond the one contained in the firing rate alone. However, no biologically plausible mechanism has yet been suggested that allows downstream neurons to infer the phase of the LFP at the soma of their pre-synaptic afferents. Therefore, so far there is no evidence that the nervous system can process phase information. Here we study a model of a bursting pyramidal neuron, driven by a time-dependent stimulus. We show that the number of spikes per burst varies systematically with the phase of the fluctuating input at the time of burst onset. The mapping between input phase and number of spikes per burst is a robust response feature for a broad range of stimulus statistics. Our results suggest that cortical bursting neurons could play a crucial role in translating LFP phase information into an easily decodable spike count code.

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