CNS 2015 Workshop on

Rate vs. temporal coding schemes: mutually exclusive or cooperatively coexisting?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Prague, Czech Republic

Deciphering how the brain processes information requires that we understand the diverse neural coding strategies used by different brain areas. Those strategies are often divided into rate and temporal codes (Shadlen and Newsome, J Neurosci 1998; Softky and Koch, J Neurosci 1993). This division has been the source of much debate and has often involved championing one strategy by rejecting the other. Although distinct, the two strategies are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Mounting evidence calls for a concerted effort to reconcile the data favoring each side.

The traditional view is that information is transmitted by the firing rates of individual neurons, and that this is best achieved by neurons operating independently of each other. However, it has long been observed that neighboring neurons exhibit correlated spiking; on the surface, these correlations ought to reduce information capacity, but more detailed consideration reveals that this is not always the case. Moreover, correlations can exist across many different timescales: Correlations that involve synchronization of spikes are liable to have very different effects than less precise correlations spanning 100s of milliseconds. Moreover, whether neurons should ideally operate independently depends on how one frames the problem: Rate coding may benefit from uncorrelated spiking whereas temporal coding relies on it – precisely timed spikes may be resilient to disruption by noise only when they occur synchronously across a set of neurons.

This workshop will explore the possibility that different coding strategies co-exist, invigorating an old debate with a new, more conciliatory approach. It is intended for a broad audience and will ideally attract audience members from diverse backgrounds. There is deliberately no focus on any one brain area (e.g. hippocampus or visual cortex) so that insights from different fields can be brought together and the assumptions implicit in any one field will be challenged. Invited speakers will cover a broad range of topics, addressing how information is encoded by large neural networks, but also how that encoding is impacted by the biophysical properties of neurons and synapses. Speakers will address both experimental and theoretical issues. The workshop will finish with an open forum aimed at discussing issues spurred by the preceding talks.


Milad Lankarany (, Neuroscience and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Steven A. Prescott (, Neuroscience and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).


Confirmed Speakers 

Alain Destexhe (CNRS)

Sonja Gruen (Julich)

Daniel A Butts (U of Maryland)

Sliman Bensmaia (U of Chicago)

Sungho Hong (OIST)

Thomas Akam (Champalimaud)

Milad Lankarany (U of Toronto)

Julijana Gjorgjieva (Harvard)

Tentative Schedule

Each talk is scheduled for 25-30 minutes for each speaker. The intensive talks, 10-15 minutes short presentations, are considered in this workshop for the first time to provide good opportunities for scientists interested in our workshop to present their recent findings. Finally, we end the workshop by 30 minutes open discussion.

 Time Speaker Title
9-9.30 Thomas Akam Oscillatory Multiplexing of Population Codes for Selective Communication in Neural Circuits  
9.30-10 Sonja Gruen Detection of sequences of synchronized spiking activities 
 10.30-11 Sliman BensmaiaThe Importance of Spike Timing in Tactile Coding 
11-11.30 Milad Lankarany Multiplex Coding using Asynchronous and Synchronous Spikes 
 11.30-13.30LUNCH BREAK
13.30-14Daniel Butts Temporal precision and information in the awake cortex 
14-14.30  Alain Destexhe Unexpected Roles of Inhibition in the Awake Brain 
14.30-15  Sungho Hong Multiplexed coding by cerebellar Purkinje neurons 
15.30-16  Julijana Gjorgjieva Two Time-scales of Information Transmission in Developing Cortical Neurons 
16-16.30  Intensive Talks (Round I)
Jorge Mejias 
Mario Mulansky

Neural heterogeneity on rate and temporal coding
Time-resolved and parameter-free measures of spike train synchrony 
16.30-17Intensive Talks (Round II) 
Robert Rosenbaum
Constantinos Melachrinos

Rates, correlations and  high-dimensional dynamics in spatially extended balanced networks
Deciphering the role of dendritic morphology on temporal coding in the Pre-Frontal Cortex 
 17-17.30Open Discussion