Extreme Synergy

every spike is sacred...

 

Recent results obtained by Bill Bialek and collaborators at Princeton indicate that even relatively weak pairwise correlations between retinal neurons can, in aggregate, produce astonishing levels of order in the resulting firing patterns, in much the same way that the interactions between local domains can lead to global ordering of ferromagnetic materials below the Curie temperature.  I have recently been investigating the hypothesis that the presence of similarly realistic pairwise correlations could allow downstream targets to more rapidly reconstruct visual stimuli from retinal spike trains.  My findings, reported in a preprint entitled Extreme Synergy, suggest that information regarding the local intensity of each pixel can in many cases be widely distributed across a large population containing hundreds of retinal ganglion cells all responding to the same contiguous stimulus, a non-local encoding strategy that may have evolved to minimize the number of spikes necessary to support rapid image reconstruction.