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Publication Detail
Energy-Efficient Information Transfer by Visual Pathway Synapses.
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Harris JJ, Jolivet R, Engl E, Attwell D
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    3151, 3160
  • Journal:
    Current Biology
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
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  • Notes:
    This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
The architecture of computational devices is shaped by their energy consumption. Energetic constraints are used to design silicon-based computers but are poorly understood for neural computation. In the brain, most energy is used to reverse ion influxes generating excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and action potentials. Thus, EPSCs should be small to minimize energy use, but not so small as to impair information transmission. We quantified information flow through the retinothalamic synapse in the visual pathway in brain slices, with cortical and inhibitory input to the postsynaptic cell blocked. Altering EPSC size with dynamic clamp, we found that a larger-than-normal EPSC increased information flow through the synapse. Thus, the evolutionarily selected EPSC size does not maximize retinal information flow to the cortex. By assessing the energy used on postsynaptic ion pumping and action potentials, we show that, instead, the EPSC size optimizes the ratio of retinal information transmitted to energy consumed. These data suggest maximization of information transmission per energy used as a synaptic design principle.
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