Mathematical framework for place coding in the auditory system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the auditory system, tonotopy is postulated to be the substrate for a place code, where sound frequency is encoded by the location of the neurons that fire during the stimulus. Though conceptually simple, the computations that allow for the representation of intensity and complex sounds are poorly understood. Here, a mathematical framework is developed in order to define clearly the conditions that support a place code. To accommodate both frequency and intensity information, the neural network is described as a space with elements that represent individual neurons and clusters of neurons. A mapping is then constructed from acoustic space to neural space so that frequency and intensity are encoded, respectively, by the location and size of the clusters. Algebraic operations -addition and multiplication- are derived to elucidate the rules for representing, assembling, and modulating multi-frequency sound in networks. The resulting outcomes of these operations are consistent with network simulations as well as with electrophysiological and psychophysical data. The analyses show how both frequency and intensity can be encoded with a purely place code, without the need for rate or temporal coding schemes. The algebraic operations are used to describe loudness summation and suggest a mechanism for the critical band. The mathematical approach complements experimental and computational approaches and provides a foundation for interpreting data and constructing models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009251
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Mathematical framework for place coding in the auditory system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this