Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Signal stabilization and noise suppression in neural systems

  • 34 Accesses

  • 9 Citations


Neural activity is viewed as a stochastic point process, in which information resides in the modulation of a background of spontaneous activity. Characteristic features of the spatial and temporal mapping of sensory signals are discussed. One of the puzzling aspects of neural functioning is the integrity of the signal in its passage toward higher brain centers, in view of the fundamentally noisy response of the individual neuron. It is shown, that a process, we call image stabilization, is a direct consequence of the particular mapping function exemplified by lateral inhibition and adaptation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Adrian, E. D.: The activity of the optic ganglion of dytiscus marginalis. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 75, 26 (1932).

  2. — Mathews, R.: The action of light on the eye. Part I. The discharge of impulses in the optic nerve and its relation to the electric change in the retina. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 63, 378 (1927a).

  3. The action of light on the eye. Part II. The processes involved in retinal excitation. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 64, 279 (1927b).

  4. Arbib, M.: Brains machines and mathematics. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1964.

  5. Barlow, H. B.: Action potentials from the frog's retina. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 119, 58 (1953a).

  6. — Summation and inhibition in the frog's retina. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 118, 69 (1953b).

  7. Baumgartner, G., Brown, J. L., Schulz, A.: Responses of single units of the cat visual system to rectangular stimulus patterns. J. Neurophysiol. 28, 1 (1965).

  8. —: Die Neurophysiologie des simultanen Helligkeitskontrastes. Pflügers Arch. ges. Physiol. 274, 489 (1962).

  9. Békésy, G. von: Sensory inhibition. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press 1967.

  10. Bishop, P. O., Levick, W. R., Williams, W. D.: Statistical analysis of the dark discharge of lateral geniculate neurones. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 170, 598 (1964).

  11. Creutzfeldt, O., Fuster, J. M., Herz, A., Straschill, M.: Information transmission in the visual system. In: Brain and conscious experience (J. C. Eccles, ed.). Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer 1966.

  12. Creutzfeldt, O., Lux, H. D., Nacimiento, A. C.: Intracelluläre Reizung corticaler Nervenzellen. Pflügers Arch. ges. Physiol. 281, 129 (1964).

  13. Doty, R. W., Bosma, J. F.: An electromyographic analysis of reflex deglutition. J. Neurophysiol. 19, 44 (1956).

  14. Eccles, J. C.: Cerebral synaptic mechanisms. In: Brain and conscious experience (J. C. Eccles, ed.). Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer 1966.

  15. FitzHugh, R.: The statistical detection of threshold signals in the retina. J. gen. Physiol. 40, 925 (1957).

  16. Fuortes, M. G. F.: Electrical activity of the cells of limulus. Amer. J. Ophthal. 46, Part II, 210 (1958).

  17. — Initiation of impulses in visual cells of limulus. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 148, 14 (1959).

  18. —, Mantegazzini, F.: Interpretation of the repetitive firing of nerve cells. J. gen. Physiol. 45, 1163 (1962).

  19. Fuster, J. M., Herz, A., Creutzfeld, O. D.: Interval analysis of cell discharge in spontaneous and optically modulated activity in the visual system. Arch. ital. Biol. 103, 159 (1965).

  20. Graham, C. H., Granit, R.: Comparative studies on the peripheral and central retina. VI. Inhibition, summation and synchronization of impulses in the retina. Amer. J. Physiol. 98, 664 (1931).

  21. Granit, R.: Receptors and sensory perception. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 1955.

  22. — Kernell, D., Shortess, G. K.: Quantitative aspects of repetitive firing of mammalian motoneurons, as caused by injected currents. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 168, 911 (1963).

  23. — Renkin, B.: Net depolarization and discharge rate of motoneurones, as measured by recurrent inhibition. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 158, 461 (1961).

  24. Gregory, R. L.: Eye and brain. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1966.

  25. Harth, E. M., Pertile, G.: Adaptation phenomena resulting from post-spike membrane potential changes. 3rd Internat. Biophys. Congr. of the IUPAB, Cambridge, Mass. 1969.

  26. Hartline, H. K.: Inhibition of activity of visual receptors by illuminating nearby retinal areas in the limulus eye. Fed. Proc. 8, 69 (1949).

  27. — Visual receptors and retinal interaction. Science 164, 270 (1969).

  28. — Ratliff, F.: Inhibitory interaction of receptor units in the eye of limulus. J. gen. Physiol. 40, 357 (1956).

  29. — Miller, W. H.: Inhibitory interaction in the retina and its significance in vision. In: Nervous inhibition (E. Florey, ed.). New York: Pergamon Press 1961.

  30. Herz, A., Creutzfeld, O. D., Fuster, J. M.: Statistische Eigenschaften der Neuronaktivität im aszendierenden visuellen System. Kybernetik 2, 61 (1964).

  31. Jasper, M. M., Ricci, G., Doane, B.: Microelectrode analysis of cortical cell discharge during avoidance conditioning in the monkey. In: The Moskow colloquium on electroencephalography of higher nervous activity (M. M. Jasper and G. D. Smirnov, eds.). Enceph. clin. Neurophysiol., Suppl. 13 (1960).

  32. Junge, D., Moore, G. P.: Interspike interval fluctuations in aplysia pacemaker neurons. Biophys. J. 6, 411 (1966).

  33. Kuffler, S. W.: Neurons in the retina; organization, inhibition and excitation problems. Cold Spr. Harb. Symp. quant. Biol. 17, 281 (1952).

  34. — Discharge patterns and functional organization of mammalian retina. J. Neurophysiol. 16, 37 (1953).

  35. Mach, E.: Über die physiologische Wirkung räumlich verteilter Lichtreize. S.-B. Akad. Wiss. Wien, math.-nat. Kl. 54, Abt. 2, 393 (1866).

  36. Maffei, L.: Dynamics of retinal receptive fields. In: Proceedings of conference on Systems Analysis Approach to Neurophysiological Problems. Brainerd, Minn. 1969.

  37. Morrell, F.: Electrical signs of sensory coding. In: The neurosciences (G. C. Quarton, T. Melnechuk and F. O. Schmitt, eds.). New York: The Rockefeller Univ. Press 1967.

  38. Mountcastle, V. B., Powell, T. P. S.: Neural mechanisms subserving cutaneous sensibility, with special reference to the role of afferent inhibition in sensory perception and discrimination. Bull. Johns Hopk. Hosp. 105, 201 (1959).

  39. Neugebauer, H. E. J.: Development method and modulation transfer function of xerography. Appl. Opt. 6, 943 (1967).

  40. Neumann, J. von: Probabilistic logics and the synthesis of reliable organisms from unreliable components. In: Automata studies (C. E. Shannon and J. McCarthy, eds.). Urbana, Ill.: Princeton Univ. Press 1956.

  41. Perkel, D. H., Bullock, T. H.: Neural coding. Neurosci. Res. Prog. Bull. 6, 221 (1968).

  42. — Gerstein, G. L., Moore, G. P.: Neuronal spike trains and stochastic point processes. Biophys. J. 7, 391 (1967).

  43. Peterson, W. W.: Error correcting codes. Cambridge, Mass.: M. I. T. Press 1961.

  44. Rall, W.: Theoretical significance of dendritic trees for neuronal input-output relations. In: Neural theory and modeling (R. F. Reiss, ed.). Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press 1964.

  45. Ratliff, F.: Inhibitory interaction. In: Sensory communication (W. A. Rosenblith, ed.). New York: M. I. T. Press and Wiley & Sons Inc. 1961.

  46. — The dynamics of excitation and inhibition in the lateral eye of limulus. In: Proceedings of conference on Systems Analysis Approach to Neurophysiological Problems, Brainerd, Minn. 1969.

  47. Shannon, C. E., Weaver, W.: Mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, Ill.: The University of Illinois Press 1949.

  48. Stone, J., Fabian, M.: Summing properties of the cat's retinal ganglion cell. Vision Res. 8, 1023 (1968).

  49. Verveen, A. A., Derksen, H. E.: Fluctuations in membrane potential of axons and the problem of coding. Kybernetik 2, 152 (1965).

  50. Werner, G., Mountcastle, V. B.: Neural activity in mechanoreceptive cutaneous afferents. J. Neurophysiol. 28, 359 (1965).

  51. Winograd, S., Cowan, J.D.: Reliable computation in the presence of noise. Cambridge, Mass.: M. I. T. Press 1963.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

The research reported in this paper was sponsored by the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories, Aerospace Medical Division, Air Force Systems Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, under contract No. F 33615-67-C-1413 and the Office of Naval Research, contract No. ONR N0001467-A-0378-0001, with Syracuse University Research Institute. Further reproduction is authorized to satisfy needs of the U.S. Government.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Harth, E., Beek, B., Pertile, G. et al. Signal stabilization and noise suppression in neural systems. Kybernetik 7, 112–122 (1970). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00292456

Download citation


  • Characteristic Feature
  • Neural Activity
  • Point Process
  • Mapping Function
  • Lateral Inhibition