The benefits of noise in neural systems: bridging theory and experiment

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Jun 20;12(7):415-26. doi: 10.1038/nrn3061.


Although typically assumed to degrade performance, random fluctuations, or noise, can sometimes improve information processing in non-linear systems. One such form of 'stochastic facilitation', stochastic resonance, has been observed to enhance processing both in theoretical models of neural systems and in experimental neuroscience. However, the two approaches have yet to be fully reconciled. Understanding the diverse roles of noise in neural computation will require the design of experiments based on new theory and models, into which biologically appropriate experimental detail feeds back at various levels of abstraction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Noise
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stochastic Processes