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The temporal coding is a type of neural coding which relies on precise timing of action potentials or inter-spike intervals. Combined with traditional rate coding models, temporal coding can provide additional information with the same rate. There is no precise definition of temporal code. Actually almost any coding scheme that is not rate coding can be referred to as a temporal code.

Unlike rate coding, the temporal coding model tries to account for short-term stimuli producing a small number of spikes. For example, if a neuron is capable of firing at a maximum rate of 100 spikes per second, then a stimulus <10ms would likely elicit only a single spike. This model is especially important for sound localization, which occurs within the brain on the order of milliseconds.

The discovery of spike timing dependent plasticity, where synaptic efficacy is modulated by the precise timing of spikes, provides strong evidence that temporal codes are used for cortical information transmission.

It should not be confused with the coding of the temporal information.

See alsoEdit


  • Dayan P, Abbott LF. Theoretical Neuroscience: Computational and Mathematical Modeling of Neural Systems. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press; 2001. ISBN 0-262-04199-5
  • Rieke F, Warland D, de Ruyter van Steveninck R, Bialek W. Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press; 1999. ISBN 0-262-68108-0
  • Theunissen F, Miller JP. Temporal Encoding in Nervous Systems: A Rigorous Definition. Journal of Computational Neuroscience, 2, 149—162; 1995.

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