Adaptive rescaling maximizes information transmission

Neuron. 2000 Jun;26(3):695-702. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)81205-2.


Adaptation is a widespread phenomenon in nervous systems, providing flexibility to function under varying external conditions. Here, we relate an adaptive property of a sensory system directly to its function as a carrier of information about input signals. We show that the input/output relation of a sensory system in a dynamic environment changes with the statistical properties of the environment. Specifically, when the dynamic range of inputs changes, the input/output relation rescales so as to match the dynamic range of responses to that of the inputs. We give direct evidence that the scaling of the input/output relation is set to maximize information transmission for each distribution of signals. This adaptive behavior should be particularly useful in dealing with the intermittent statistics of natural signals.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Diptera
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*