How to correctly quantify neuronal phase-response curves from noisy recordings

14 Jan 2019  ·  Hesse Janina, Schreiber Susanne ·

At the level of individual neurons, various coding properties can be inferred from the input-output relationship of a cell. For small inputs, this relation is captured by the phase-response curve (PRC), which measures the effect of a small perturbation on the timing of the subsequent spike... Experimentally, however, an accurate experimental estimation of PRCs is challenging. Despite elaborate measurement efforts, experimental PRC estimates often cannot be related to those from modeling studies. In particular, experimental PRCs rarely resemble the generic PRC expected close to spike initiation, which is indicative of the underlying spike-onset bifurcation. Here, we show for conductance-based model neurons that the correspondence between theoretical and measured phase-response curve is lost when the stimuli used for the estimation are too large. In this case, the derived phase-response curve is distorted beyond recognition and takes on a generic shape that reflects the measurement protocol, but not the real neuronal dynamics. We discuss how to identify appropriate stimulus strengths for perturbation and noise-stimulation methods, which permit to estimate PRCs that reliably reflect the spike-onset bifurcation -- a task that is particularly difficult if a lower bound for the stimulus amplitude is dictated by prominent intrinsic neuronal noise. read more

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