Spiking activity propagation in neuronal networks: reconciling different perspectives on neural coding

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Sep;11(9):615-27. doi: 10.1038/nrn2886.


The brain is a highly modular structure. To exploit modularity, it is necessary that spiking activity can propagate from one module to another while preserving the information it carries. Therefore, reliable propagation is one of the key properties of a candidate neural code. Surprisingly, the conditions under which spiking activity can be propagated have received comparatively little attention in the experimental literature. By contrast, several computational studies in the last decade have addressed this issue. Using feedforward networks (FFNs) as a generic network model, they have identified two dynamical activity modes that support the propagation of either asynchronous (rate code) or synchronous (temporal code) spiking. Here, we review the dichotomy of asynchronous and synchronous propagation in FFNs, propose their integration into a single extended conceptual framework and suggest experimental strategies to test our hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*