Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 275–299

Point process models of single-neuron discharges

  • Don H. Johnson

DOI: 10.1007/BF00161089

Cite this article as:
Johnson, D.H. J Comput Neurosci (1996) 3: 275. doi:10.1007/BF00161089


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 processauditory neuronsneural information processing

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don H. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Computer and Information Technology Institute, Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringRice UniversityHouston