Noise correlations are a common feature of neural responses and have been observed in many cortical areas across different species. These correlations can influence information processing by enhancing or diminishing the quality of the neural code, but the origin of these correlations is still a matter of controversy. In this computational study we explore the hypothesis that noise correlations are the result of local recurrent excitatory and inhibitory connections. We simulated two-dimensional networks of adaptive spiking neurons with local connection patterns following Gaussian kernels. Noise correlations decay with distance between neurons but are only observed if the range of excitatory connections is smaller than the range of inhibitory connections ("Mexican hat" connectivity) and if the connection strengths are sufficiently strong. These correlations arise from a moving blob-like structure of evoked activity, which is absent if inhibitory interactions have a smaller range ("inverse Mexican hat" connectivity). Spatially structured external inputs fixate these blobs to certain locations and thus effectively reduce noise correlations. We further investigated the influence of these network configurations on stimulus encoding. On the one hand, the observed correlations diminish information about a stimulus encoded by a network. On the other hand, correlated activity allows for more precise encoding of stimulus information if the decoder has only access to a limited amount of neurons.
Meyer, R., Ladenbauer, J., & Obermayer, K. (2017). The Influence of Mexican Hat Recurrent Connectivity on Noise Correlations and Stimulus Encoding. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncom.2017.00034