Noise Makes Sense in Neuronal Computing

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Science  08 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5498, pp. 1908-1909
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5498.1908

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The united efforts of assemblies of neurons in the brain's primary visual cortex translate incoming visual signals into action potentials. These action potentials encode, for example, the contrast and orientation of different parts of the image. Some neurons are sensitive to one particular orientation, other are sensitive to other orientations, but all neurons respond equally well to the image contrast. In a Perspective, Volgushev and Eysel explain the finding ( Anderson et al.) that neurons are able to maintain this sensitivity to the orientation of a stimulus regardless of the contrast by adding noise to the membrane potential, such that action potentials can also be generated in response to weak signals at low contrast.