Inter-spike interval (ISI) distributions of cortical neurons exhibit a range of different shapes. Wide ISI distributions are believed to stem from a balance of excitatory and inhibitory inputs that leads to a strongly fluctuating total drive. An important question is whether the full range of experimentally observed ISI distributions can be reproduced by modulating this balance. To address this issue, we investigate the shape of the ISI distributions of spiking neuron models receiving fluctuating inputs. Using analytical tools to describe the ISI distribution of a leaky integrate-and-fire (LIF) neuron, we identify three key features: (i) the ISI distribution displays an exponential decay at long ISIs independently of the strength of the fluctuating input; (ii) as the amplitude of the input fluctuations is increased, the ISI distribution evolves progressively between three types, a narrow distribution (supra-threshold input), an exponential with an effective refractory period (subthreshold but supra-reset input), and a bursting exponential (sub-reset input); (iii) the shape of the ISI distribution is approximately independent of the mean ISI and determined only by the coefficient of variation. Numerical simulations show that these features are not specific to the LIF model, but are also present in the ISI distributions of the exponential integrate-and-fire model and a Hodgkin-Huxley-like model. Moreover, we observe that for a fixed mean and coefficient of variation of ISIs, the full ISI distributions of the three models are nearly identical. We conclude that the ISI distributions of spiking neurons in presence of fluctuating inputs are well described by gamma distributions.
- spike trains
- neural models
- excitation-inhibition balance
- Copyright © 2010, Journal of Neurophysiology