Sensory and motor variables are typically represented by a population of broadly tuned neurons. A coarser representation with broader tuning can often improve coding accuracy, but sometimes the accuracy may also improve with sharper tuning. The theoretical analysis here shows that the relationship between tuning width and accuracy depends crucially on the dimension of the encoded variable. A general rule is derived for how the Fisher information scales with the tuning width, regardless of the exact shape of the tuning function, the probability distribution of spikes, and allowing some correlated noise between neurons. These results demonstrate a universal dimensionality effect in neural population coding.

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