The Poisson variability in cortical neural responses has been typically modeled using spike averaging techniques, such as trial averaging and rate coding, since such methods can produce reliable correlates of behavior. However, mechanisms that rely on counting spikes could be slow and inefficient and thus might not be useful in the brain for computations at timescales in the 10 millisecond range. This issue has motivated a search for alternative spike codes that take advantage of spike timing and has resulted in many studies that use synchronized neural networks for communication. Here we focus on recent studies that suggest that the gamma frequency may provide a reference that allows local spike phase representations that could result in much faster information transmission. We have developed a unified model (gamma spike multiplexing) that takes advantage of a single cycle of a cell's somatic gamma frequency to modulate the generation of its action potentials. An important consequence of this coding mechanism is that it allows multiple independent neural processes to run in parallel, thereby greatly increasing the processing capability of the cortex. System-level simulations and preliminary analysis of mouse cortical cell data are presented as support for the proposed theoretical model.

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