Broadband neural encoding in the cricket cercal sensory system enhanced by stochastic resonance

Nature. 1996 Mar 14;380(6570):165-8. doi: 10.1038/380165a0.


Sensory systems are often required to detect a small amplitude signal embedded in broadband background noise. Traditionally, ambient noise is regarded as detrimental to encoding accuracy. Recently, however, a phenomenon known as stochastic resonance has been described in which, for systems with a nonlinear threshold, increasing the input noise level can actually improve the output signal-to-noise ratio over a limited range of signal and noise strengths. Previous theoretical and experimental studies of stochastic resonance in physical and biological systems have dealt exclusively with single-frequency sine stimuli embedded in a broadband noise background. In the past year it has been shown in a theoretical and modelling study that stochastic resonance can be observed with broadband signals. Here we demonstrate that broadband stochastic resonance is manifest in the peripheral layers of neural processing in a simple sensory system, and that it plays a role over a wide range of biologically relevant stimulus parameters. Further, we quantify the functional significance of the phenomenon within the context of signal processing, using information theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Air
  • Animals
  • Gryllidae
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds*
  • Stochastic Processes