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Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (Computational Neuroscience)

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262181747
ISBN-10: 0262181746
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Editorial Reviews


"Spikes is a really wonderful book. The particular theory about how the brain works that informs the presentation, and thus determines how neural coding is to be described, is clearly thought through and the arguments are attractively and intelligently presented."
Charles F. Stevens, The Salk Institute

About the Author

Fred Rieke is Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington. David Warland is Research Associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University. Rob de Ruyter van Steveninck is Research Scientist, William Bialek a Senior Research Scientist, both at the NEC Research Institute.

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Product Details

  • Series: Computational Neuroscience
  • Hardcover: 395 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (November 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262181746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262181747
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,037,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Howard Schneider on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Neural coding has traditionally been assumed to be one of rate coding, ie, the stronger the stimulus, then the more action potentials per second that a sensory neuron transmits, and so on throughout the nervous system. However, this book begins by pointing out that in various sensory systems there appears to be sparse temporal neural coding, ie, the timing of action potentials transmits information, and in fact does so quite efficiently. A mathematical basis is built up throughout the reference in order to support these claims. However, the general reader who has prior reading of other neurobiological references listed above and below, will nonetheless find the descriptive portions of this reference informative and reasonable to read. If a neuron can fire 100 spikes (ie, action potentials) per second, then it would appear that many biological phenomena are coded by no more than one or two spikes. For example, bat echolocation occurs on a time scale of 5-20 milliseconds (enough time for coding by a maximum of one or two spikes). For example, in the fly, movements across its visual field can cause it to generate a flight torque in less than 30 milliseconds (ie, enough time for only a few spikes). For example, in the rat hippocampus signaling about position is performed on the order of one or two spikes per neuron. The fact that single spikes are carrying information in these examples indicates that at least in some parts of the nervous system, a temporal neural coding exists. As well, the issue of neuron reliability is considered in detail.Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. Books on March 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
A decade ago, computational neuroscientists and some neurophysiologists were twittering with excitement about information theory. Finally, a tool that could decode the "noise" observed when we record neuronal spike signals!

These days...information theory has become part of the standard toolkit in a few types of experiments. But we're not much closer to understanding the neural code(s) than when this book was written. Nevertheless, Bialek's group of mostly physicists turned neuroscientists continue to develop information theoretic tools. Perhaps they'll come up with one that's not just another hammer.

The authors of Spikes may still turn out to have been ahead of their time (just like Barlow, MacKay and McCulloch, who originally applied information theory to neurons). Or their research program may turn out to have been a detour, a misguided attempt to find a particular physical universal in evolutionarily contingent biological systems.

If you're interested in theoretical neuroscience, I would definitely recommend Dayan and Abbott's textbook. van Hemmen and Sejnowski's "23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience" also has good bits. If you really want to read about information theory, David MacKay's new book is available on the web.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book asks: How does a nerve convey information about the world toward the brain? It is a crucially important question - one of the most important questions in human history, in fact -- because before one can make realistic theories about how a brain works, one must know what sorts of signals it receives and acts upon.
We were all told, in basic biology, that this question was answered decisively in the 1920s: The nerve encodes and transmits information about the world in the form of frequency modulated pulse trains. The more intense the stimulus, the higher the pulse frequency, and the closer together the pulses in the train. In this system, a single impulse, or "spike", is trivial, in the sense that it is blank. It cannot convey any information alone. It takes at least two pulses to encode sensory meaning. The information that is read by the brain (meaning, say, a level of light, or the intensity of a musical tone) is encoded as the interval between pulses. And so as students we ate this FM story. And answered the inevitable, standardized questions about it on exams.
Now we learn that this familiar, ingrained bedrock idea is not actually true. Somehow, a single spike is - after all -- capable of conveying information to the brain. This news was not revealed in some single egregious experiment but, rather, by a substantial body of experimental results that have filtered into the literature recently. This book gathers and pivots around this unexpected (and probably very unpopular) body of research work, and I suggest that you initially skip all the introductory material and go straight to pages 54-60, where the experimental literature is summarized.
A nice example comes from studying the decision making time of bats.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Will Wagstaff on October 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The point of this review is to evaluate "Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code" from the perspective of an graduate student in computational neurobiology. Overall, this book provides informative and mathematical methods for making sense of spike trains in the brain. While this book may seem appealing to those familiar with the biology of the brain, it is more geared towards the engineer with a strong calculus and statistics background. The concepts should be graspable by the senior undergraduate or graduate student after some time spent computationally evaluating the neuronal models. I would highly recommend this book to any person with an interest in mathematically modeling spike train data of individual neurons.

Synopsis and Opinion:

The goal of this book is to "understand how the nervous system represents signals with realistic time dependencies" (12). Although a lofty and seemingly unattainable goal for a single textbook, Rieke et al. limit most of their evaluation to the spike train data of a single neuron. A single chapter is devoted to the issues associated with a small ensemble of neurons. In order to guide this discussion and properly frame the problem, Rieke appeals to the Bayes' mathematical formalism in the majority of the descriptions of spike train data. If any equations appear within the text without justification, supplementary material is provided in an appendix with formal proofs and discussion.

Chapter 1 is an informative introduction to the problem of neural coding: the ability of an ensemble of neurons to represent any stimulus. The authors set out to frame the problem in a way that is manageable, quantifiable, and justifiable under the limitations of a 300 page book.
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