Signal Detection in Noisy Weakly-Active Dendrites

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 11 (NIPS 1998)

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Amit Manwani, Christof Koch


Here we derive measures quantifying the information loss of a synaptic signal due to the presence of neuronal noise sources, as it electrotonically propagates along a weakly-active dendrite. We model the dendrite as an infinite linear cable, with noise sources distributed along its length. The noise sources we consider are thermal noise, channel noise arising from the stochastic nature of voltage-dependent ionic channels (K+ and Na+) and synaptic noise due to spontaneous background activity. We assess the efficacy of information transfer using a signal detection paradigm where the objective is to detect the presence/absence of a presynaptic spike from the post-synaptic membrane voltage. This allows us to analytically assess the role of each of these noise sources in information transfer. For our choice of parameters, we find that the synaptic noise is the dominant noise source which limits the maximum length over which information be reliably transmitted.