Noise in attractor networks in the brain produced by graded firing rate representations

Tristan J. Webb, Edmund T. Rolls, Gustavo Deco, Jianfeng Feng

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Representations in the cortex are often distributed with graded firing rates in the neuronal populations. The firing rate probability distribution of each neuron to a set of stimuli is often exponential or gamma. In processes in the brain, such as decision-making, that are influenced by the noise produced by the close to random spike timings of each neuron for a given mean rate, the noise with this graded type of representation may be larger than with the binary firing rate distribution that is usually investigated. In integrate-and-fire simulations of an attractor decision-making network, we show that the noise is indeed greater for a given sparseness of the representation for graded, exponential, than for binary firing rate distributions. The greater noise was measured by faster escaping times from the spontaneous firing rate state when the decision cues are applied, and this corresponds to faster decision or reaction times. The greater noise was also evident as less stability of the spontaneous firing state before the decision cues are applied. The implication is that spiking-related noise will continue to be a factor that influences processes such as decision-making, signal detection, short-term memory, and memory recall even with the quite large networks found in the cerebral cortex. In these networks there are several thousand recurrent collateral synapses onto each neuron. The greater noise with graded firing rate distributions has the advantage that it can increase the speed of operation of cortical circuitry.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23630
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes

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