The bulletin of mathematical biophysics

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 127–135

The limiting information capacity of a neuronal link

  • Donald M. MacKay
  • Warren S. McCulloch
Article

Abstract

The maximum rate at which a synaptic link could theoretically transmit information depends on the type of coding used. In a binary modulation system it depends chiefly on the relaxation time, and the limiting capacity equals the maximum attainable impulse rate. In a system using pulse-interval modulation, temporal precision may be a more important limiting factor. It is shown that in a number of typical cases a system of the second type could transmit several times more information per second through a synaptic link than a binary system, and the relation between relative efficiency, relaxation-time, and temporal resolving power is generalized in graphical form. It is concluded, not that interval modulation rather than binary modulation “ought” to be the mode of action of the central nervous system, but that the contrary assumption is unsupported by considerations of efficiency.

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Copyright information

© The University of Chicago Press 1952

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald M. MacKay
    • 1
    • 2
  • Warren S. McCulloch
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of London King's CollegeUK
  2. 2.University of Illinois College of MedicineUSA

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