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2 Publications

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    11/01/05 | Degenerate coding in neural systems.
    Leonardo A
    Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology. 2005 Nov;191(11):995-1010. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0026-0

    When the dimensionality of a neural circuit is substantially larger than the dimensionality of the variable it encodes, many different degenerate network states can produce the same output. In this review I will discuss three different neural systems that are linked by this theme. The pyloric network of the lobster, the song control system of the zebra finch, and the odor encoding system of the locust, while different in design, all contain degeneracies between their internal parameters and the outputs they encode. Indeed, although the dynamics of song generation and odor identification are quite different, computationally, odor recognition can be thought of as running the song generation circuitry backwards. In both of these systems, degeneracy plays a vital role in mapping a sparse neural representation devoid of correlations onto external stimuli (odors or song structure) that are strongly correlated. I argue that degeneracy between input and output states is an inherent feature of many neural systems, which can be exploited as a fault-tolerant method of reliably learning, generating, and discriminating closely related patterns.

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    01/19/05 | Ensemble coding of vocal control in birdsong.
    Leonardo A, Fee MS
    The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2005 Jan 19;25(3):652-61. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3036-04.2005

    Zebra finch song is represented in the high-level motor control nucleus high vocal center (HVC) (Reiner et al., 2004) as a sparse sequence of spike bursts. In contrast, the vocal organ is driven continuously by smoothly varying muscle control signals. To investigate how the sparse HVC code is transformed into continuous vocal patterns, we recorded in the singing zebra finch from populations of neurons in the robust nucleus of arcopallium (RA), a premotor area intermediate between HVC and the motor neurons. We found that highly similar song elements are typically produced by different RA ensembles. Furthermore, although the song is modulated on a wide range of time scales (10-100 ms), patterns of neural activity in RA change only on a short time scale (5-10 ms). We suggest that song is driven by a dynamic circuit that operates on a single underlying clock, and that the large convergence of RA neurons to vocal control muscles results in a many-to-one mapping of RA activity to song structure. This permits rapidly changing RA ensembles to drive both fast and slow acoustic modulations, thereby transforming the sparse HVC code into a continuous vocal pattern.

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