Temporal coding of sensory information in the brain
Acoustical Science and Technology
Physiological and psychophysical evidence for temporal coding of sensory qualities in different modalities is considered. A space of pulse codes is outlined that includes 1) channel-codes (across-neural activation patterns), 2) temporal pattern codes (spike patterns), and 3) spike latency codes (relative spike timings). Temporal codes are codes in which spike timings (rather than spike counts) are critical to informational function. Stimulus-dependent temporal patterning of neural responses can
... arise extrinsically or intrinsically: through stimulus-driven temporal correlations (phase-locking), response latencies, or characteristic timecourses of activation. Phase-locking is abundant in audition, mechanoception, electroception, proprioception, and vision. In phase-locked systems, temporal differences between sensory surfaces can subserve representations of location, motion, and spatial form that can be analyzed via temporal cross-correlation operations. To phase-locking limits, patterns of all-order interspike intervals that are produced reflect stimulus autocorrelation functions that can subserve representations of form. Stimulus-dependent intrinsic temporal response structure is found in all sensory systems. Characteristic temporal patterns that may encode stimulus qualities can be found in the chemical senses, the cutaneous senses, and some aspects of vision. In some modalities (audition, gustation, color vision, mechanoception, nocioception), particular temporal patterns of electrical stimulation elicit specific sensory qualities.