Gain Control Network Conditions in Early Sensory Coding

Eduardo Serrano, Thomas Nowotny, Rafael Levi, Brian Smith, Ramón Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Gain control is essential for the proper function of any sensory system. However, the precise mechanisms for achieving effective gain control in the brain are unknown. Based on our understanding of the existence and strength of connections in the insect olfactory system, we analyze the conditions that lead to controlled gain in a randomly connected network of excitatory and inhibitory neurons. We consider two scenarios for the variation of input into the system. In the first case, the intensity of the sensory input controls the input currents to a fixed proportion of neurons of the excitatory and inhibitory populations. In the second case, increasing intensity of the sensory stimulus will both, recruit an increasing number of neurons that receive input and change the input current that they receive. Using a mean field approximation for the network activity we derive relationships between the parameters of the network that ensure that the overall level of activity of the excitatory population remains unchanged for increasing intensity of the external stimulation. We find that, first, the main parameters that regulate network gain are the probabilities of connections from the inhibitory population to the excitatory population and of the connections within the inhibitory population. Second, we show that strict gain control is not achievable in a random network in the second case, when the input recruits an increasing number of neurons. Finally, we confirm that the gain control conditions derived from the mean field approximation are valid in simulations of firing rate models and Hodgkin-Huxley conductance based models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003133
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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