Spike correlations between neurons are ubiquitous in the cortex, but their role is not understood. Here we describe the firing response of a leaky integrate-and-fire neuron (LIF) when it receives a temporarily correlated input generated by presynaptic correlated neuronal populations. Input correlations are characterized in terms of the firing rates, Fano factors, correlation coefficients, and correlation timescale of the neurons driving the target neuron. We show that the sum of the presynaptic spike trains cannot be well described by a Poisson process. In fact, the total input current has a nontrivial two-point correlation function described by two main parameters: the correlation timescale (how precise the input correlations are in time) and the correlation magnitude (how strong they are). Therefore, the total current generated by the input spike trains is not well described by a white noise gaussian process. Instead, we model the total current as a colored gaussian process with the same mean and two-point correlation function, leading to the formulation of the problem in terms of a Fokker-Planck equation. Solutions of the output firing rate are found in the limit of short and long correlation timescales. The solutions described here expand and improve on our previous results (Moreno, de la Rocha, Renart, & Parga, 2002) by presenting new analytical expressions for the output firing rate for general IF neurons, extending the validity of the results for arbitrarily large correlation magnitude, and by describing the differential effect of correlations on the mean-driven or noise-dominated firing regimes. Also the details of this novel formalism are given here for the first time. We employ numerical simulations to confirm the analytical solutions and study the firing response to sudden changes in the input correlations. We expect this formalism to be useful for the study of correlations in neuronal networks and their role in neural processing and information transmission.
* Rubén Moreno-Bote is currently at the Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003, U.S.A.
† Alfonso Renart is currently at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ 07102, U.S.A.