A readout mechanism for latency codes

Oran Zohar, Maoz Shamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Response latency has been suggested as a possible source of information in the central nervous system when fast decisions are required. The accuracy of latency codes was studied in the past using a simplified readout algorithm termed the temporal-winner-take-all (tWTA). The tWTA is a competitive readout algorithm in which populations of neurons with a similar decision preference compete, and the algorithm selects according to the preference of the population that reaches the decision threshold first. It has been shown that this algorithm can account for accurate decisions among a small number of alternatives during short biologically relevant time periods. However, one of the major points of criticism of latency codes has been that it is unclear how can such a readout be implemented by the central nervous system. Here we show that the solution to this long standing puzzle may be rather simple. We suggest a mechanism that is based on reciprocal inhibition architecture, similar to that of the conventional winner-take-all, and show that under a wide range of parameters this mechanism is sufficient to implement the tWTA algorithm. This is done by first analyzing a rate toy model, and demonstrating its ability to discriminate short latency differences between its inputs. We then study the sensitivity of this mechanism to fine-tuning of its initial conditions, and show that it is robust to wide range of noise levels in the initial conditions. These results are then generalized to a Hodgkin-Huxley type of neuron model, using numerical simulations. Latency codes have been criticized for requiring a reliable stimulus-onset detection mechanism as a reference for measuring latency. Here we show that this frequent assumption does not hold, and that, an additional onset estimator is not needed to trigger this simple tWTA mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107
JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2016


  • Conductance based model
  • Fast readout
  • Rate model
  • Spike latency
  • Temporal code
  • Winner takes all

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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