Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
Trade in Yours
For a 5.25 Gift Card
Trade in
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

Tell the Publisher!
Id like to read this book on Kindle

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (Computational Neuroscience) [Paperback]

Fred Rieke
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 31.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
Want it Wednesday, 23 April? Choose Express delivery at checkout. Details


Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover --  
Paperback 31.95  
Trade In this Item for up to 5.25
Trade in Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (Computational Neuroscience) for an Amazon.co.uk gift card of up to 5.25, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Book Description

2 Sep 1999 Computational Neuroscience
Our perception of the world is driven by input from the sensory nerves. This input arrives encoded as sequences of identical spikes. Much of neural computation involves processing these spike trains. What does it mean to say that a certain set of spikes is the right answer to a computational problem? In what sense does a spike train convey information about the sensory world? Spikes begins by providing precise formulations of these and related questions about the representation of sensory signals in neural spike trains. The answers to these questions are then pursued in experiments on sensory neurons.The authors invite the reader to play the role of a hypothetical observer inside the brain who makes decisions based on the incoming spike trains. Rather than asking how a neuron responds to a given stimulus, the authors ask how the brain could make inferences about an unknown stimulus from a given neural response. The flavor of some problems faced by the organism is captured by analyzing the way in which the observer can make a running reconstruction of the sensory stimulus as it evolves in time. These ideas are illustrated by examples from experiments on several biological systems.Intended for neurobiologists with an interest in mathematical analysis of neural data as well as the growing number of physicists and mathematicians interested in information processing by "real" nervous systems, Spikes provides a self-contained review of relevant concepts in information theory and statistical decision theory. A quantitative framework is used to pose precise questions about the structure of the neural code. These questions in turn influence both the design and analysis of experiments on sensory neurons.

Frequently Bought Together

Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (Computational Neuroscience) + Theoretical Neuroscience: Computational and Mathematical Modeling of Neural Systems (Computational Neuroscience)
Buy the selected items together

Product details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New edition edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262681080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262681087
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 17.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


"A joy to read... This book will undoubtedly become a classic. Theideas presented in it have already begun (in no small part through thework of the authors) to reshape our views of the neural code. Thisbook will make them accessible to a much wider audience." Anthony Zador , Science "Spikes is a really wonderful book. The particulartheory about how the brain works that informs the presentation, and thusdetermines how neural coding is to be described, is clearly thought throughand the arguments are attractively and intelligently presented." Charles F. Stevens, The Salk Institute

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Two friends, one living in the city and the other on the family farm, describe to one another the experiences of everyday life. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more

Customer Reviews

4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By codonn
Excellent book. When reading these semi-technical neuroscience books, I am usually worried that the subject matter will be out of date if more than a few years old because of the speed of advancement of the discipline. Not a chance. Although now a decade old, the ideas discussed are the same today. If you want anyway there are plenty of review papers out there overviewing more recent work. Spikes is well written, understandable and thought provoking. For anyone interested in the 'neural code' (the language of the brain), it is a must-read.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic 1 Nov 1998
By A Customer
In this book RWSB explain in coherent terms, using basic statistical principles, how meaning is coded in the spike trains of neurons. A fascinating and fairly rigorous information-theoretic treatment of the phenomenon.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neuronal code -- it's all in the timing 27 Nov 2000
By Howard Schneider - Published on Amazon.com
Neural coding has traditionally been assumed to be one of rate coding, ie, the stronger the stimulus, then the more action potentials per second that a sensory neuron transmits, and so on throughout the nervous system. However, this book begins by pointing out that in various sensory systems there appears to be sparse temporal neural coding, ie, the timing of action potentials transmits information, and in fact does so quite efficiently. A mathematical basis is built up throughout the reference in order to support these claims. However, the general reader who has prior reading of other neurobiological references listed above and below, will nonetheless find the descriptive portions of this reference informative and reasonable to read. If a neuron can fire 100 spikes (ie, action potentials) per second, then it would appear that many biological phenomena are coded by no more than one or two spikes. For example, bat echolocation occurs on a time scale of 5-20 milliseconds (enough time for coding by a maximum of one or two spikes). For example, in the fly, movements across its visual field can cause it to generate a flight torque in less than 30 milliseconds (ie, enough time for only a few spikes). For example, in the rat hippocampus signaling about position is performed on the order of one or two spikes per neuron. The fact that single spikes are carrying information in these examples indicates that at least in some parts of the nervous system, a temporal neural coding exists. As well, the issue of neuron reliability is considered in detail. Traditionally, it has been considered that individual neurons are unreliable (for example, repeated presentations of the same sensory stimulus does not cause a sensory neuron to generate the same spike train each time), and that it is only in the context of the large network of neurons of the nervous system that perception is reliable (for example, an animal running through the woods at a high speed does not collide with trees). However, it is not so clear how the different spike trains generated each time by the sensory neuron in response to the same stimulus should really be quantified, and there is much evidence showing individual neurons to be quite reliable. For example, in human vision in very dim light individual photosensitive sensory neurons are detecting single photons. The fact that the many neural circuits after the photosensitive sensory neuron add little noise to the sensory neuron output, indicates that the neural computation involved must be very reliable. The fact that hyperacuity (ability to detect sensory stimuli beyond, albeit generally just somewhat beyond before it is truly impossible to do so, the threshold of physical reliability) exists also indicates the existence of a very reliable neural computation. For example, echolocating bats resolving jitter in the echoes on an order of 10 nanoseconds, or weakly electric fish resolving signal shifts on the order of 100s of nanoseconds, or human observers with a theoretical visual acuity threshold of 0.01 degree able to discriminate 0.002 degrees. Most of this reference analyzes single trains of spikes (ie, the action potentials being generated by a single neuron), and shows clearly that very few spikes can represent very precise computations. The last chapter of this book considers briefly more recent research on spike trains of multiple neurons.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was provocative, but may not point the way forward. 6 Mar 2007
By D. Books - Published on Amazon.com
A decade ago, computational neuroscientists and some neurophysiologists were twittering with excitement about information theory. Finally, a tool that could decode the "noise" observed when we record neuronal spike signals!

These days...information theory has become part of the standard toolkit in a few types of experiments. But we're not much closer to understanding the neural code(s) than when this book was written. Nevertheless, Bialek's group of mostly physicists turned neuroscientists continue to develop information theoretic tools. Perhaps they'll come up with one that's not just another hammer.

The authors of Spikes may still turn out to have been ahead of their time (just like Barlow, MacKay and McCulloch, who originally applied information theory to neurons). Or their research program may turn out to have been a detour, a misguided attempt to find a particular physical universal in evolutionarily contingent biological systems.

If you're interested in theoretical neuroscience, I would definitely recommend Dayan and Abbott's textbook. van Hemmen and Sejnowski's "23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience" also has good bits. If you really want to read about information theory, David MacKay's new book is available on the web.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Comes the revolution! 15 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book asks: How does a nerve convey information about the world toward the brain? It is a crucially important question - one of the most important questions in human history, in fact -- because before one can make realistic theories about how a brain works, one must know what sorts of signals it receives and acts upon.
We were all told, in basic biology, that this question was answered decisively in the 1920s: The nerve encodes and transmits information about the world in the form of frequency modulated pulse trains. The more intense the stimulus, the higher the pulse frequency, and the closer together the pulses in the train. In this system, a single impulse, or "spike", is trivial, in the sense that it is blank. It cannot convey any information alone. It takes at least two pulses to encode sensory meaning. The information that is read by the brain (meaning, say, a level of light, or the intensity of a musical tone) is encoded as the interval between pulses. And so as students we ate this FM story. And answered the inevitable, standardized questions about it on exams.
Now we learn that this familiar, ingrained bedrock idea is not actually true. Somehow, a single spike is - after all -- capable of conveying information to the brain. This news was not revealed in some single egregious experiment but, rather, by a substantial body of experimental results that have filtered into the literature recently. This book gathers and pivots around this unexpected (and probably very unpopular) body of research work, and I suggest that you initially skip all the introductory material and go straight to pages 54-60, where the experimental literature is summarized.
A nice example comes from studying the decision making time of bats. The animal uses echolocation to navigate in flight. An experimental question is this: How many nerve impulses can the creature's brain have decoded before it suddenly decides to swerve? The answer is on the order of one spike. One. Uno.
At this point in the book, the answer is already transparent. The secret of the neural encoding is that there is no code. A single spike conveys information. The information is explicit. No computation is required to extract it.
Ah, but not so fast. On page 4, the authors reiterate the all-or-none law, declaring that: "... incoming stimuli either produce action potentials, which propagate long distances along the cell's axon, or they do not. There are no intermediate signaling mechanisms. This means that a single neuron can provide information to the brain only through the arrival times of the spikes."
Evidently they still want to keep this absolute intact, and so they go on to recreate, in lieu of the familiar FM neural code, another more sophisticated code. This book is their proposal for a new code.
But it seems to me that having driven such wonderfully high piton (their assertion that the FM code isn't one) the authors proceed to rappel down the mountain very fast. Retreating, perhaps, into their alternative code theory.
Instead of following them to lower, safer ground, you might pause to consider this: There might exist, after all, "intermediate signaling mechanisms." The pulse cannot be amplitude modulated (this really is an absolute). But it can surely do many other clever things that would elude detection by the instruments used to study nerve impulses. (Voltage clamps, patch clamps, probes). Like what? It could spin. It could and probably does travel up the axon membrane in one of many discrete longitudinal channels, formed by protein links between adjacent ion channels. In such a nerve the information, or sensory increment level, is inherent in the channel number.
Neurobiology, as an industry, is somewhat at risk to ideas of the type that are let loose in this remarkable book. If one were to follow up on them, one might arrive at a theory of the brain that actually made sense. Well understood structures like the synapse would have to be explained in new ways, etc. There might be uproar.
Also take a look at Findings and Current Opinion in Cognitive Neuroscience, by Squire and Kosslyn. Chapter 25 reviews some the ideas presented in Spikes, and competing explanations offered by other authors in an effort to elucidate the so called "sparse code." One spike. Very sparse indeed. By all means get a copy of Spikes. It would be a shame to miss out on the scientific revolution it so strongly augers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking the organism's point of view 9 Jan 2006
By Coffeecoffeecoffee - Published on Amazon.com
What would it mean to understand how a neuron works? Traditionally this questions has been addressed by attempting to solve the encoding problem-that is, given a sample stimulus input, construct a model neuron that predicts the temporal pattern of spikes resulting from observing that stimulus. While much progress has been made on this front (for example, using Weiner-Volterra expansion methods), the remarkable contribution of this book is to turn the question on its head. Instead of asking how a neuron encodes information about the world into discrete spikes, this book instead takes the organism's point of view. Namely, animals do not "observe" the world, but only the spike trains that encode sensory stimuli, and they must be capable of producing successful behavior on the basis of these discrete spikes.

The question for the researcher becomes, given a sample spike train, what do we know about the environmental situation that resulted in this spike train? This question, the decoding problem, is the problem that biological organisms must solve. Perhaps even more remarkably, when posed as a decoding problem, many of the nonlinearities of the neural response disappear, and we are left with a simple linear filtering problem.

`Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code' presents numerous recent results on this front, drawing on behavioral and neurological data as diverse as bat echo location, moth evasion tactics, vertebrate and invertebrate vision, and the incredible French cave beetle capable of reliably detecting temperature changes as small as 1/1000 of a degree. To interpret these results, the authors rely on a variety of mathematical techniques, from probability theory and information theory, to optimal filtering and kernel approaches. This book is very rigorous, and not for math-phobic readers. Understanding all of the ideas presented in this book will take work: about one-third of the book is devoted to a series of appendixes or "Mathematical asides". Finally, one of the most valuable contributions of this book is its extensive list of references for the ideas and results presented in each chapter.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Neural Code (Variability & Meaning) 10 Jun 2004
By Joseph J Grenier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Rieke et al. have written a great book exploring how single neurons and populations of cells code information sensitive spikes and patterns of spikes, i.e. single action potentials, clusters, repetitive bursts, or single bursts. There are quite a few equations in the book, but the authors have written the text so well, that an advanced undergraduate or graduate student in the Neurosciences can understand it. One of my favorate sections discusses the Entropy of information, and the entropy of neural code patterns. This concept will likely shape the future of many neurophysiological investigations.
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category