Brief bursts of high-frequency action potentials represent a common firing mode of pyramidal neurons, and there are indications that they represent a special neural code. It is therefore of interest to determine whether there are particular spatial and temporal features of neuronal inputs that trigger bursts. Recent work on pyramidal cells indicates that bursts can be initiated by a specific spatial arrangement of inputs in which there is coincident proximal and distal dendritic excitation (Larkum et al., 1999). Here we have used a computational model of an important class of bursting neurons to investigate whether there are special temporal features of inputs that trigger bursts. We find that when a model pyramidal neuron receives sinusoidally or randomly varying inputs, bursts occur preferentially on the positive slope of the input signal. We further find that the number of spikes per burst can signal the magnitude of the slope in a graded manner. We show how these computations can be understood in terms of the biophysical mechanism of burst generation. There are several examples in the literature suggesting that bursts indeed occur preferentially on positive slopes (Guido et al., 1992; Gabbiani et al., 1996). Our results suggest that this selectivity could be a simple consequence of the biophysics of burst generation. Our observations also raise the possibility that neurons use a burst duration code useful for rapid information transmission. This possibility could be further examined experimentally by looking for correlations between burst duration and stimulus variables.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Journal of Neuroscience|
|State||Published - Oct 15 2002|
- Biophysical model
- Neural coding
- Pyramidal cell
- Weakly electric fish