Neural circuits consist of many noisy, slow components, with individual neurons subject to ion channel noise, axonal propagation delays, and unreliable and slow synaptic transmission. This raises a fundamental question: how can reliable computation emerge from such unreliable components? A classic strategy is to simply average over a population of N ffiffiffiffi weakly-coupled neurons to achieve errors that scale as 1=pN. But more interestingly, recent work has introduced networks of leaky integrate-and-fire (LIF) neurons that achieve coding errors that scale superclassically as 1/N by combining the principles of predictive coding and fast and tight inhibitory-excitatory balance. However, spike transmission delays preclude such fast inhibition, and computational studies have observed that such delays can cause pathological synchronization that in turn destroys superclassical coding performance. Intriguingly, it has also been observed in simulations that noise can actually improve coding performance, and that there exists some optimal level of noise that minimizes coding error. However, we lack a quantitative theory that describes this fascinating interplay between delays, noise and neural coding performance in spiking networks. In this work, we elucidate the mechanisms underpinning this beneficial role of noise by deriving analytical expressions for coding error as a function of spike propagation delay and noise levels in predictive coding tight-balance networks of LIF neurons. Furthermore, we compute the minimal coding error and the associated optimal noise level, finding that they grow as power-laws with the delay. Our analysis reveals quantitatively how optimal levels of noise can rescue neural coding performance in spiking neural networks with delays by preventing the build up of pathological synchrony without overwhelming the overall spiking dynamics. This analysis can serve as a foundation for the further study of precise computation in the presence of noise and delays in efficient spiking neural circuits.
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Copyright: © 2022 Timcheck et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.