High-frequency "burst" clusters of spikes are a generic output pattern of many neurons. While bursting is a ubiquitous computational feature of different nervous systems across animal species, the encoding of synaptic inputs by bursts is not well understood. We find that bursting neurons in the rodent thalamus employ "multiplexing" to differentially encode low- and high-frequency stimulus features associated with either T-type calcium "low-threshold" or fast sodium spiking events, respectively, and these events adapt differently. Thus, thalamic bursts encode disparate information in three channels: (1) burst size, (2) burst onset time, and (3) precise spike timing within bursts. Strikingly, this latter "intraburst" encoding channel shows millisecond-level feature selectivity and adapts across statistical contexts to maintain stable information encoded per spike. Consequently, calcium events both encode low-frequency stimuli and, in parallel, gate a transient window for high-frequency, adaptive stimulus encoding by sodium spike timing, allowing bursts to efficiently convey fine-scale temporal information.
Keywords: T-type calcium channel; adaptation; bursting; excitability; linear-nonlinear model; multiplexing; neural coding; thalamocortical system.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.