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Neuron, Vol. 19, 56, July, 1997, Copyright 1997 by Cell Press Book Review

Summary: Neuron, Vol. 19, 56, July, 1997, Copyright 1997 by Cell Press
Book Review
how the stimulus changes over time introduces a com-Fiddling with the Neural Code
plexity into the neural code that is often avoided by
using static or stationary stimuli. The authors of Spikes
Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code take the bull by the horns and deal directly with the
By Fred Rieke, David Warland, problem of encoding time-varying stimuli. To under-
Rob de Ruyter van Steveninck, and William Bialek stand the issues involved, a musical analogy might be
Cambridge: MIT Press. (1997). 395 pp. $45.00 helpful. When a violinist plays a single note, the pitch
heard corresponds to the oscillation frequency of the
violin string. During even the most rapid passages in a
piece of music, wecan still identify the pitches of individ-
On the cover jacket of Spikes, the authors' names, ro-
ual notes because the strings vibrate much faster than
tated sideways, appear as action potentials recorded
the violinist's fingers. Thus, the understanding of pitch
from a neuron(Figure 1). These name-spikes have differ-
gained from listening to long, single notes is relevant
ent heights corresponding to the different lengths of the
for our understanding of melody. Imagine, however, a


Source: Abbott, Laurence - Center for Neurobiology and Behavior & Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University


Collections: Biology and Medicine