In the CNS, activity of individual neurons has a small but quantifiable relationship to sensory representations and motor outputs. Coactivation of a few 10s to 100s of neurons can code sensory inputs and behavioral task performance within psychophysical limits. However, in a sea of sensory inputs and demand for complex motor outputs how is the activity of such small subpopulations of neurons organized? Two theories dominate in this respect: increases in spike rate (rate coding) and sharpening of the coincidence of spiking in active neurons (temporal coding). Both have computational advantages and are far from mutually exclusive. Here, we review evidence for a bias in neuronal circuits toward temporal coding and the coexistence of rate and temporal coding during population rhythm generation. The coincident expression of multiple types of gamma rhythm in sensory cortex suggests a mechanistic substrate for combining rate and temporal codes on the basis of stimulus strength.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.