Synchrony in neuronal communication: An energy efficient scheme

We are interested in understanding the neural correlates of attentional processes using first principles. Here we apply a recently developed first principles approach that uses transmitted information in bits per joule to quantify the energy efficiency of information transmission for an inter-spike-interval (ISI) code that can be modulated by means of the synchrony in the presynaptic population. We simulate a single compartment conductance-based model neuron driven by excitatory and inhibitory spikes from a presynaptic population, where the rate and synchrony in the presynaptic excitatory population may vary independently from the average rate.

We find that for a fixed input rate, the ISI distribution of the post synaptic neuron depends on the level of synchrony and is well-described by a Gamma distribution for synchrony levels less than 50%. For levels of synchrony between 15% and 50% (restricted for technical reasons), we compute the optimum input distribution that maximizes the mutual information per unit energy. This optimum distribution shows that an increased level of synchrony, as it has been reported experimentally in attention-demanding conditions, reduces the mode of the input distribution and the excitability threshold of post synaptic neuron. This facilitates a more energy efficient neuronal communication.

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