The spike trains that transmit information between neurons are stochastic. We used the theory of random point processes and simulation methods to investigate the influence of temporal correlation of synaptic input current on firing statistics. The theory accounts for two sources for temporal correlation: synchrony between spikes in presynaptic input trains and the unitary synaptic current time course. Simulations show that slow temporal correlation of synaptic input leads to high variability in firing. In a leaky integrate-and-fire neuron model with spike afterhyperpolarization the theory accurately predicts the firing rate when the spike threshold is higher than two standard deviations of the membrane potential fluctuations. For lower thresholds the spike afterhyperpolarization reduces the firing rate below the theory's predicted level when the synaptic correlation decays rapidly. If the synaptic correlation decays slower than the spike afterhyperpolarization, spike bursts can occur during single broad peaks of input fluctuations, increasing the firing rate over the prediction. Spike bursts lead to a coefficient of variation for the interspike intervals that can exceed one, suggesting an explanation of high coefficient of variation for interspike intervals observed in vivo.
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