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Neural Computation

November 2008, Vol. 20, No. 11, Pages 2715-2744
(doi: 10.1162/neco.2008.06-07-559)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Faithful Representation of Stimuli with a Population of Integrate-and-Fire Neurons
Article PDF (1.13 MB)

We consider a formal model of stimulus encoding with a circuit consisting of a bank of filters and an ensemble of integrate-and-fire neurons. Such models arise in olfactory systems, vision, and hearing. We demonstrate that bandlimited stimuli can be faithfully represented with spike trains generated by the ensemble of neurons. We provide a stimulus reconstruction scheme based on the spike times of the ensemble of neurons and derive conditions for perfect recovery. The key result calls for the spike density of the neural population to be above the Nyquist rate. We also show that recovery is perfect if the number of neurons in the population is larger than a threshold value. Increasing the number of neurons to achieve a faithful representation of the sensory world is consistent with basic neurobiological thought. Finally we demonstrate that in general, the problem of faithful recovery of stimuli from the spike train of single neurons is ill posed. The stimulus can be recovered, however, from the information contained in the spike train of a population of neurons.