Volume 12 Supplement 1
The role and function of noise and neural heterogeneity in the integrated population response of the vestibulo-ocular reflex
© McGuinness and Graham; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Published: 18 July 2011
We investigate a functional role and cause for the neural variability in the integrated population response of the linear component of the Horizontal Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex (VOR), specifically looking at the role and function of noise and neural heterogeneity in this system.
The linear component of the VOR is produced through an elementary 3 neuron reflex arc, and is characterised by short latency and high fidelity at frequencies up to 20Hz. However, single cell responses of Medial Vestibular Nucleus (MVN) neurons become non-linear and distorted for inputs greater than 12Hz, and a homogeneous population becomes highly synchronised when a common input is applied, and so neither can adequately encode the required information. It has therefore been theorised that an asynchronous population is required to achieve the necessary wide frequency response of the VOR .
It is shown that a heterogeneous population, where each member shows a different rate of spontaneous activity, produces a response with greater fidelity than a homogeneous population. In addition, different distributions of variability in spontaneous activity, different input amplitudes, and different intensities of noise, show different response fidelities, suggestive of a form of optimization in the MVN populations.
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