Optimal tuning widths in population coding of periodic variables

Montemurro, Marcelo A. and Panzeri, Stefano (2006). Optimal tuning widths in population coding of periodic variables. Neural Computation, 18(7) pp. 1555–1576.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1162/neco.2006.18.7.1555


We study the relationship between the accuracy of a large neuronal population in encoding periodic sensory stimuli and the width of the tuning curves of individual neurons in the population. By using general simple models of population activity, we show that when considering one or two periodic stimulus features, a narrow tuning width provides better population encoding accuracy. When encoding more than two periodic stimulus features, the information conveyed by the population is instead maximal for finite values of the tuning width. These optimal values are only weakly dependent on model parameters and are similar to the width of tuning to orientation ormotion direction of real visual cortical neurons. A very large tuning width leads to poor encoding accuracy, whatever the number of stimulus features encoded. Thus, optimal coding of periodic stimuli is different from that of nonperiodic stimuli, which, as shown in previous studies, would require infinitely large tuning widths when coding more than two stimulus features.

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