Spike trains with negative interspike interval (ISI) correlations, in which long/short ISIs are more likely followed by short/long ISIs, are common in many neurons. They can be described by stochastic models with a spike-triggered adaptation variable. We analyze a phenomenon in these models where such statistically dependent ISI sequences arise in tandem with quasi-statistically independent and identically distributed (quasi-IID) adaptation variable sequences. The sequences of adaptation states and resulting ISIs are linked by a nonlinear decorrelating transformation. We establish general conditions on a family of stochastic spiking models that guarantee this quasi-IID property and establish bounds on the resulting baseline ISI correlations. Inputs that elicit weak firing rate changes in samples with many spikes are known to be more detectible when negative ISI correlations are present because they reduce spike count variance; this defines a variance-reduced firing rate coding benchmark. We performed a Fisher information analysis on these adapting models exhibiting ISI correlations to show that a spike pattern code based on the quasi-IID property achieves the upper bound of detection performance, surpassing rate codes with the same mean rate—including the variance-reduced rate code benchmark—by 20% to 30%. The information loss in rate codes arises because the benefits of reduced spike count variance cannot compensate for the lower firing rate gain due to adaptation. Since adaptation states have similar dynamics to synaptic responses, the quasi-IID decorrelation transformation of the spike train is plausibly implemented by downstream neurons through matched postsynaptic kinetics. This provides an explanation for observed coding performance in sensory systems that cannot be accounted for by rate coding, for example, at the detection threshold where rate changes can be insignificant.

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