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Burst coding: from cell to cognition

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Front. Comput. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fncom.2018.00048

Neural coding with bursts - current state and future perspectives

  • 1Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Netherlands
  • 2Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Neuronal action potentials or spikes provide a long-range, noise-resistant means of communication between neurons. As point processes single spikes contain little information in themselves, i.e. outside the context of spikes from other neurons. Moreover, they may fail to cross a synapse. A burst, which consists of a short high frequency train of spikes, will more reliably cross a synapse, increasing the likelihood of eliciting a postsynaptic spike, depending on the specific short-term plasticity at that synapse. Both the number and the temporal pattern of spikes in a burst provide a coding space that lies within the temporal integration properties of single neurons.

Bursts have been observed in many species, including the non-mammalian, and in brain regions that range from subcortical to cortical. Despite their widespread presence and potential relevance, the uncertainties of how to classify bursts seems to have limited the research into the coding possibilities for bursts.

The present series of research articles provides new insights into the relevance and interpretation of bursts across different neural circuits, and new methods for their analysis. Here, we provide a succinct introduction to the history of burst coding and an overview of recent work on this topic.

Keywords: Neural coding, Neural Network, Neuronal dynamics, Rapid discharge, neural information transmission, data analysis, bursting

Received: 14 Dec 2017; Accepted: 06 Jun 2018.

Edited by:

Mayank R. Mehta, University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Reviewed by:

Thierry R. Nieus, Luigi Sacco Hospital, Italy
Lavanya Acharya, Baylor College of Medicine, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Zeldenrust, Wadman and Englitz. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Fleur Zeldenrust, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, f.zeldenrust@neurophysiology.nl