The effects of pair-wise and higher order correlations on the firing rate of a post-synaptic neuron
Coincident firing of neurons projecting to a common target cell is likely to raise the probability of firing of this post-synaptic cell. Therefore synchronized firing constitutes a significant event for post-synaptic neurons and is likely to play a role in neuronal information processing. Physiological data on synchronized firing in cortical networks is primarily based on paired recordings and cross-correlation analysis. However, pair-wise correlations among all inputs onto a post-synaptic neuron do not uniquely determine the distribution of simultaneous post-synaptic events. We develop a framework in order to calculate the amount of synchronous firing that, based on maximum entropy, should exist in a homogeneous neural network in which the neurons have known pair-wise correlations and higher order structure is absent. According to the distribution of maximal entropy, synchronous events in which a large proportion of the neurons participates should exist, even in the case of weak pair-wise correlations. Network simulations also exhibit these highly synchronous events in the case of weak pair-wise correlations. If such a group of neurons provides input to a common post-synaptic target, these network bursts may enhance the impact of this input, especially in the case of a high post-synaptic threshold. Unfortunately, the proportion of neurons participating in synchronous bursts can be approximated by our method under restricted conditions. When these conditions are not fulfilled, the spike trains have less than maximal entropy, which is indicative of the presence of higher order structure. In this situation, the degree of synchronicity cannot be derived from the pair-wise correlations.