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Bayesian binning for maximising information rate of rapid serial presentation for sensory neurons

Understanding the response properties of single neurons is seriously limited by the available experimental time and the rate [bit/s] at which information can be gained from the neurons. A substantial improvement in the latter can be achieved by speeding up the presentation of stimuli.

We show how the novel technique of Bayesian Binning [1] can be used to find the optimal stimulus presentation rate of a continuous sequence of stimuli.

This method applied to neurons in high-level visual cortical area STSa gives optimal presentation rates of approximately 56 ms/stimulus (18 stimuli/s) which is significantly faster than conventional presentation rates, allowing a better sampling of stimulus space. We relate these results to findings obtained with the Bayesian Bin Classification method [2, 3], which can be used to select the optimal time window for the analysis of the continuous response stream. Both methods will soon be freely available as standalone command-line applications or Matlab/Octave plugins.

The optimal window duration is equal to the stimulus duration near the best presentation rate. Interestingly, this duration also corresponds to the peak of spike efficiency [bit/spike] of a rate code whose firing rates match those found in visual neurons (area STSa).


  1. 1.

    Endres D, Földiák P: Bayesian bin distribution inference and mutual information. IEEE Trans Inform Theory. 2005, 51 (11): 3766-3779. 10.1109/TIT.2005.856954.

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  2. 2.

    Endres D: Bayesian and information-theoretic tools for neuroscience. PhD thesis. 2007, University of St. Andrews, digital research repository, []

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  3. 3.

    Endres D, Földiák P: Exact Bayesian bin classification: a fast alternative to Bayesian classification and its application to neural response analysis. 2007.

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Correspondence to Dominik Endres.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Endres, D., Földiák, P. Bayesian binning for maximising information rate of rapid serial presentation for sensory neurons. BMC Neurosci 8, P151 (2007).

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  • Firing Rate
  • Stimulus Duration
  • Presentation Rate
  • Rate Code
  • Continuous Response