Reading a neural code

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Science  28 Jun 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5014, pp. 1854-1857
DOI: 10.1126/science.2063199


Traditional approaches to neural coding characterize the encoding of known stimuli in average neural responses. Organisms face nearly the opposite task--extracting information about an unknown time-dependent stimulus from short segments of a spike train. Here the neural code was characterized from the point of view of the organism, culminating in algorithms for real-time stimulus estimation based on a single example of the spike train. These methods were applied to an identified movement-sensitive neuron in the fly visual system. Such decoding experiments determined the effective noise level and fault tolerance of neural computation, and the structure of the decoding algorithms suggested a simple model for real-time analog signal processing with spiking neurons.