Extreme Synergy in a Retinal Code

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By Garrett T. Kenyon, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Over the brief time intervals available for processing retinal output, roughly 50 to 300 msec, the number of extra spikes generated by individual ganglion cells can be quite variable. Here, I use computer-generated spike trains to investigate how signal/noise might be improved by utilizing spatiotemporal correlations among retinal neurons responding to large, contiguous stimuli. Realistic correlations were produced by modulating the instantaneous firing probabilities of all stimulated neurons by a common oscillatory input consistent with experimentally measured field potentials and correlograms. Whereas previous studies have typically measured synergy between pairs of ganglion cells examined one at a time, or alternatively have employed optimized linear filters to decode activity across larger populations, the present study investigated a distributed, non-linear encoding/decoding strategy for reconstructing simple visual stimuli from up to one million pairwise correlations extracted on single trials from massively-parallel spike trains as short as 25 msec in duration. By integrating signals across neighborhoods commensurate in size to classical antagonistic surrounds, the first principal component of the pairwise correlation matrix yielded dramatic improvements in signal/noise without sacrificing fine spatial detail. These results demonstrate how extreme synergy could be used to minimize the number of spikes required to support rapid image reconstruction.

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