Optimal short-term population coding: When Fisher information fails


Efficient coding has been proposed as a first principle explaining neuronal response properties in the central nervous system. The shape of optimal codes, however, strongly depends on the natural limitations of the particular physical system. Here we investigate how optimal neuronal encoding strategies are influenced by the finite number of neurons N (place constraint), the limited decoding time window length T (time constraint), the maximum neuronal firing rate fmax (power constraint), and the maximal average rate fmax (energy constraint). While Fisher information provides a general lower bound for the mean squared error of unbiased signal reconstruction, its use to characterize the coding precision is limited. Analyzing simple examples, we illustrate some typical pitfalls and thereby show that Fisher information provides a valid measure for the precision of a code only if the dynamic range (fmin T, fmax T) is …

Matthias Bethge
Matthias Bethge
Professor for Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning & Director of the Tübingen AI Center

Matthias Bethge is Professor for Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning at the University of Tübingen and director of the Tübingen AI Center, a joint center between Tübingen University and MPI for Intelligent Systems that is part of the German AI strategy.