Most models of neural responses are constructed to reproduce the average response to inputs but lack the flexibility to capture observed variability in responses. The origins and structure of this variability have significant implications for how information is encoded and processed in the nervous system, both by limiting information that can be conveyed and by determining processing strategies that are favorable for minimizing its negative effects. Here, we present a new modeling framework that incorporates multiple sources of noise to better capture observed features of neural response variability across stimulus conditions. We apply this model to retinal ganglion cells at two different ambient light levels and demonstrate that it captures the full distribution of responses. Further, the model reveals light level-dependent changes that could not be seen with previous models, showing both large changes in rectification of nonlinear circuit elements and systematic differences in the contributions of different noise sources under different conditions.
Copyright © 2021 Weber et al.