Abstract

The time to the first spike after stimulus onset typically varies with the stimulation intensity. Experimental evidence suggests that neural systems use such response latency to encode information about the stimulus. We investigate the decoding accuracy of the latency code in relation to the level of noise in the form of presynaptic spontaneous activity. Paradoxically, the optimal performance is achieved at a nonzero level of noise and suprathreshold stimulus intensities. We argue that this phenomenon results from the influence of the spontaneous activity on the stabilization of the membrane potential in the absence of stimulation. The reported decoding accuracy improvement represents a novel manifestation of the noise-aided signal enhancement.

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