There has been a growing interest in the estimation of information carried by a single neuron and multiple single units or population of neurons to specific stimuli. In this paper we analyze, inspired by article of Levy and Baxter (2002), the efficiency of a neuronal communication by considering dendrosomatic summation as a Shannon-type channel (1948) and by considering such uncertain synaptic transmission as part of the dendrosomatic computation. Specifically, we study Mutual Information between input and output signals for different types of neuronal network architectures by applying efficient entropy estimators. We analyze the influence of the following quantities affecting transmission abilities of neurons: synaptic failure, activation threshold, firing rate and type of the input source. We observed a number of surprising non-intuitive effects. It turns out that, especially for lower activation thresholds, significant synaptic noise can lead even to twofold increase of the transmission efficiency. Moreover, the efficiency turns out to be a non-monotonic function of the activation threshold. We find a universal value of threshold for which a local maximum of Mutual Information is achieved for most of the neuronal architectures, regardless of the type of the source (correlated and non-correlated). Additionally, to reach the global maximum the optimal firing rates must increase with the threshold. This effect is particularly visible for lower firing rates. For higher firing rates the influence of synaptic noise on the transmission efficiency is more advantageous. Noise is an inherent component of communication in biological systems, hence, based on our analysis, we conjecture that the neuronal architecture was adjusted to make more effective use of this attribute. © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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