Neural oscillations as a signature of efficient coding in the presence of synaptic delays

Elife. 2016 Jul 7;5:e13824. doi: 10.7554/eLife.13824.


Cortical networks exhibit 'global oscillations', in which neural spike times are entrained to an underlying oscillatory rhythm, but where individual neurons fire irregularly, on only a fraction of cycles. While the network dynamics underlying global oscillations have been well characterised, their function is debated. Here, we show that such global oscillations are a direct consequence of optimal efficient coding in spiking networks with synaptic delays and noise. To avoid firing unnecessary spikes, neurons need to share information about the network state. Ideally, membrane potentials should be strongly correlated and reflect a 'prediction error' while the spikes themselves are uncorrelated and occur rarely. We show that the most efficient representation is when: (i) spike times are entrained to a global Gamma rhythm (implying a consistent representation of the error); but (ii) few neurons fire on each cycle (implying high efficiency), while (iii) excitation and inhibition are tightly balanced. This suggests that cortical networks exhibiting such dynamics are tuned to achieve a maximally efficient population code.

Keywords: computational biology; computational neuroscience; neural coding; neural oscillations; none; systems biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Gamma Rhythm*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.