DOI: 0801.0011Jun 18, 2009Paper

How synchronization protects from noise

Nicolas TabareauQuang-Cuong Pham


Synchronization phenomena are pervasive in biology. In neuronal networks, the mechanisms of synchronization have been extensively studied from both physiological and computational viewpoints. The functional role of synchronization has also attracted much interest and debate. In particular, synchronization may allow distant sites in the brain to communicate and cooperate with each other, and therefore it may play a role in temporal binding and in attention and sensory-motor integration mechanisms. In this article, we study another role for synchronization: the so-called "collective enhancement of precision." We argue, in a full nonlinear dynamical context, that synchronization may help protect interconnected neurons from the influence of random perturbations -- intrinsic neuronal noise -- which affect all neurons in the nervous system. This property may allow reliable computations to be carried out even in the presence of significant noise (as experimentally found e.g., in retinal ganglion cells in primates), as mathematically it is key to obtaining meaningful downstream signals, whether in terms of precisely-timed interaction (temporal coding), population coding, or frequency coding. Using stochastic contraction theory, we ...Continue Reading

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