Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shifts in Coding Properties and Maintenance of Information Transmission during Adaptation in Barrel Cortex

Maravall M, Petersen RS, Fairhall AL, Arabzadeh E, Diamond ME

Neuronal responses to ongoing stimulation in many systems change over time, or "adapt." Despite the ubiquity of adaptation, its effects on the stimulus information carried by neurons are often unknown. Here we examine how adaptation affects sensory coding in barrel cortex. We used spike-triggered covariance analysis of single-neuron responses to continuous, rapidly varying vibrissa motion stimuli, recorded in anesthetized rats. Changes in stimulus statistics induced spike rate adaptation over hundreds of milliseconds. Vibrissa motion encoding changed with adaptation as follows. In every neuron that showed rate adaptation, the input-output tuning function scaled with the changes in stimulus distribution, allowing the neurons to maintain the quantity of information conveyed about stimulus features. A single neuron that did not show rate adaptation also lacked input-output rescaling and did not maintain information across changes in stimulus statistics. Therefore, in barrel cortex, rate adaptation occurs on a slow timescale relative to the features driving spikes and is associated with gain rescaling matched to the stimulus distribution. Our results suggest that adaptation enhances tactile representations in primary somatosensory cortex, where they could directly influence perceptual decisions.

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