Adaptation of neural responses due to the history of sensory input has been observed across all sensory modalities. However, the computational role of adaptation is not fully understood, especially when one considers neural coding problems in which adaptation increases the ambiguity of the neural responses to simple stimuli. To address this, we quantified the impact of adaptation on the information conveyed by thalamic neurons about paired whisker stimuli in male rat. At the single neuron level, although paired-pulse adaptation reduces the information about the present stimulus, the information per spike increases. Moreover, the adapted response can convey significant amounts of information about whether, when and where a previous stimulus occurred. At the population level, ambiguity of the adapted responses about the present stimulus can be compensated for by large numbers of neurons. Therefore, paired-pulse adaptation does not reduce the discriminability of simple stimuli. It provides information about the spatiotemporal context of stimulus history.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The present work provides a computational framework that demonstrates how adaptation allows neurons to encode spatiotemporal dynamics of stimulus history.
Keywords: encoding; in vivo; sensory coding; somatosensory; vibrissae; whiskers.
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