Gain Modulation as a Mechanism for Switching Reference Frames, Tasks, and Targets

  • Emilio Salinas
  • Nicholas M. Bentley
Part of the Springer Series in Computational Neuroscience book series (NEUROSCI, volume 3)


In the mammalian brain, gain modulation is a ubiquitous mechanism for integrating information from various sources. When a parameter modulates the gain of a neuron, the cell’s overall response amplitude changes, but the relative effectiveness with which different stimuli are able to excite the cell does not. Thus, modulating the gain of a neuron is akin to turning up or down its “loudness”. A well-known example is that of visually sensitive neurons in parietal cortex, which are gain-modulated by proprioceptive signals such as eye and head position. Theoretical work has shown that, in a network, even relatively weak modulation by a parameter P has an effect that is functionally equivalent to turning on and off different subsets of neurons as a function of P. Equipped with this capacity to switch, a neural circuit can change its functional connectivity very quickly. Gain modulation thus allows an organism to respond in multiple ways to a given stimulus, so it serves as a basis for flexible, nonreflexive behavior. Here we discuss a variety of tasks, and their corresponding neural circuits, in which such flexibility is paramount and where gain modulation could play a key role.


Firing Rate Receptive Field Coordinate Transformation Hand Position Stimulus Location 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Research was partially supported by grant NS044894 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilio Salinas
    • 1
  • Nicholas M. Bentley
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology and AnatomyWake Forest University School of MedicineWinston-SalemUSA

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