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A metric space approach to the information channel capacity of spike trains

A novel method is presented for calculating the information channel capacity of spike trains. This method works by fitting a χ-distribution to the distribution of distances between responses to the same stimulus: the χ-distribution is the length distribution for a vector of Gaussian variables. The dimension of this vector defines an effective dimension for the noise and by rephrasing the problem in terms of distance based quantities, this allows the channel capacity to be calculated. As an example, the capacity is calculated for a data set recorded from auditory neurons in zebra finch.


JBG wishes to thank the Irish Research Council of Science, Engineering and Technology for an Embark Postgraduate Research Scholarship. CJH wishes to thank Science Foundation Ireland for Research Frontiers Programme grant 08/RFP/MTH1280.

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Correspondence to James B Gillespie.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Gillespie, J.B., Houghton, C.J. A metric space approach to the information channel capacity of spike trains. BMC Neurosci 12 (Suppl 1), P152 (2011).

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