Universality and individuality in a neural code

Elad Schneidman, Naama Brenner, Naftali Tishby, Rob R. De Ruyter Van Steveninck, William Bialek

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

12 Scopus citations


The problem of neural coding is to understand how sequences of action potentials (spikes) are related to sensory stimuli, motor outputs, or (ultimately) thoughts and intentions. One clear question is whether the same coding rules are used by different neurons, or by corresponding neurons in different individuals. We present a quantitative formulation of this problem using ideas from information theory, and apply this approach to the analysis of experiments in the fly visual system. We find significant individual differences in the structure of the code, particularly in the way that temporal patterns of spikes are used to convey information beyond that available from variations in spike rate. On the other hand, all the flies in our ensemble exhibit a high coding efficiency, so that every spike carries the same amount of information in all the individuals. Thus the neural code has a quantifiable mixture of individuality and universality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 13 - Proceedings of the 2000 Conference, NIPS 2000
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Print)0262122413, 9780262122412
StatePublished - 2001
Event14th Annual Neural Information Processing Systems Conference, NIPS 2000 - Denver, CO, United States
Duration: Nov 27 2000Dec 2 2000

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Other14th Annual Neural Information Processing Systems Conference, NIPS 2000
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityDenver, CO

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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