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Efficient sensory coding of multidimensional stimuli

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According to the efficient coding hypothesis, sensory systems are adapted to maximize their ability to encode information about the environment. Sensory neurons play a key role in encoding by selectively modulating their firing rate for a subset of all possible stimuli. This pattern of modulation is often summarized via a tuning curve. The optimally efficient distribution of tuning curves has been calculated in variety of ways for one-dimensional (1-D) stimuli. However, many sensory neurons encode multiple stimulus dimensions simultaneously. It remains unclear how applicable existing models of 1-D tuning curves are for neurons tuned across multiple dimensions. We describe a mathematical generalization that builds on prior work in 1-D to predict optimally efficient multidimensional tuning curves. Our results have implications for interpreting observed properties of neuronal populations. For example, our results suggest that not all tuning curve attributes (such as gain and bandwidth) are equally useful for evaluating the encoding efficiency of a population.

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