It has been a matter of debate how firing rates or spatiotemporal spike patterns carry information in the brain. Recent experimental and theoretical work in part showed that these codes, especially a population rate code and a synchronous code, can be dually used in a single architecture. However, we are not yet able to relate the role of firing rates and synchrony to the spatiotemporal structure of inputs and the architecture of neural networks. In this article, we examine how feedforward neural networks encode multiple input sources in the firing patterns. We apply spike-time-dependent plasticity as a fundamental mechanism to yield synaptic competition and the associated input filtering. We use the Fokker-Planck formalism to analyze the mechanism for synaptic competition in the case of multiple inputs, which underlies the formation of functional clusters in downstream layers in a self-organizing manner. Depending on the types of feedback coupling and shared connectivity, clusters are independently engaged in population rate coding or synchronous coding, or they interact to serve as input filters. Classes of dual codings and functional roles of spike-time-dependent plasticity are also discussed.

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