Neuronal action potentials or spikes provide a long-range, noise-resistant means of communication between neurons. As point processes single spikes contain little information in themselves, i.e., outside the context of spikes from other neurons. Moreover, they may fail to cross a synapse. A burst, which consists of a short, high frequency train of spikes, will more reliably cross a synapse, increasing the likelihood of eliciting a postsynaptic spike, depending on the specific short-term plasticity at that synapse. Both the number and the temporal pattern of spikes in a burst provide a coding space that lies within the temporal integration realm of single neurons. Bursts have been observed in many species, including the non-mammalian, and in brain regions that range from subcortical to cortical. Despite their widespread presence and potential relevance, the uncertainties of how to classify bursts seems to have limited the research into the coding possibilities for bursts. The present series of research articles provides new insights into the relevance and interpretation of bursts across different neural circuits, and new methods for their analysis. Here, we provide a succinct introduction to the history of burst coding and an overview of recent work on this topic.
Keywords: data analysis; neural code; neural information transmission; neural network; neuronal dynamics; rapid discharge.