Today I am starting a short reading course focusing on some of my favorite, classic papers in theoretical neuroscience. I thought I would tweet my reviews. Up first: Dynamics of Encoding in a Population of Neurons by Bruce Knight (1972).…
Knight shows how variability in the response across the populations helps a (uncoupled) population of spiking neurons (with "forgetfulness") faithfully encode a dynamic stimulus.
He also shows the subtleties in how to link inter-spike intervals from a single neuron to the spike probability density (i.e rate) over the population.
A true classic piece of work with some great perturbative analysis. Also, it is well written (like so many of the old papers).
Student take away: (1) membrane leak is bad because it can synchronize the spike times of a population of neurons to a common, dynamic stimulus. This compromises any population encoding of the stimulus.
(2): Response variability smears out the neuron responses so that the leaky population as a whole can now auto-encode the signal.
So two wrongs makes a right. Leak (forgetfulness) + noise (unreliability) = good (auto) code. Biology finds a way (just like Jeff Goldblum told us in Jurassic Park).

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