Refractoriness and Neural Precision

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 10 (NIPS 1997)

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Michael Berry, Markus Meister


The relationship between a neuron's refractory period and the precision of its response to identical stimuli was investigated. We constructed a model of a spiking neuron that combines probabilistic firing with a refractory period. For realistic refractoriness, the model closely reproduced both the average firing rate and the response precision of a retinal ganglion cell. The model is based on a "free" firing rate, which exists in the absence of refractoriness. This function may be a better description of a spiking neuron's response than the peri-stimulus time histogram.