The Role of Coincidence-Detector Neurons in the Reliability and Precision of Subthreshold Signal Detection in Noise

Chen, Yueling; Zhang, Hui; Wang, Hengtong; Yu, Lianchun; Chen, Yong
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Subthreshold signal detection is an important task for animal survival in complex environments, where noise increases both the external signal response and the spontaneous spiking of neurons. The mechanism by which neurons process the coding of signals is not well understood. Here, we propose that coincidence detection, one of the ways to describe the functionality of a single neural cell, can improve the reliability and the precision of signal detection through detection of presynaptic input synchrony. Using a simplified neuronal network model composed of dozens of integrate-and-fire neurons and a single coincidence-detector neuron, we show how the network reads out the subthreshold noisy signals reliably and precisely. We find suitable pairing parameters, the threshold and the detection time window of the coincidence-detector neuron, that optimize the precision and reliability of the neuron. Furthermore, it is observed that the refractory period induces an oscillation in the spontaneous firing, but the neuron can inhibit this activity and improve the reliability and precision further. In the case of intermediate intrinsic states of the input neuron, the network responds to the input more efficiently. These results present the critical link between spiking synchrony and noisy signal transfer, which is utilized in coincidence detection, resulting in enhancement of temporally sensitive coding scheme.


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