Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 275-299

First online:

Point process models of single-neuron discharges

  • Don H. JohnsonAffiliated withComputer and Information Technology Institute, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University

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In most neural systems, neurons communicate via sequences of action potentials. Contemporary models assume that the action potentials' times of occurrence rather than their waveforms convey information. The mathematical tool for describing sequences of events occurring in time and/or space is the theory of point processes. Using this theory, we show that neural discharge patterns convey time-varying information intermingled with the neuron's response characteristics. We review the basic techniques for analyzing single-neuron discharge patterns and describe what they reveal about the underlying point process model. By applying information theory and estimation theory to point processes, we describe the fundamental limits on how well information can be represented by and extracted from neural discharges. We illustrate applying these results by considering recordings from the lower auditory pathway.


point process auditory neurons neural information processing