Original Paper

Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 95, Issue 5, pp 431-453

First online:

Negatively correlated firing: the functional meaning of lateral inhibition within cortical columns

  • Simon DurrantAffiliated withDepartment of Informatics, Sussex University
  • , Jianfeng FengAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Hunan Normal UniversityDepartment of Computer Science and Mathematics, Warwick University Email author 

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Lateral inhibition is a well documented aspect of neural architecture in the main sensory systems. Existing accounts of lateral inhibition focus on its role in sharpening distinctions between inputs that are closely related. However, these accounts fail to explain the functional role of inhibition in cortical columns, such as those in V1, where neurons have similar response properties. In this paper, we outline a model of position tracking using cortical columns of integrate-and-fire and Hodgkin-Huxley-type neurons which respond optimally to a particular location, to show that negatively correlated firing patterns arise from lateral inhibition in cortical columns and that this provides a clear benefit for population coding in terms of stability, accuracy, estimation time and neural resources.


Inhibition Population coding Cortical column Position tracking