It is surprisingly hard to find information about the timing of neurons, in particular how long an action potential can contribute to the summation of a neuron. Is it on the order of milliseconds or rather seconds, i.e. for a neuron to fire, do many of the presynaptic neurons fire about at the same time?

  • $\begingroup$ I can answer the first part but I don't quite understand how your second part "do many of the presynaptic neurons fire about at the same time?" relate to it. Can you elaborate or clarify? $\endgroup$ – Memming Mar 24 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ My thought was that if the falloff of the activation is very quick, then it would matter than many neurons have to fire within a brief time window to surpass the activation threshold. $\endgroup$ – Lenar Hoyt Mar 27 '16 at 14:53

Effective integration time of a typical neuron is in the order of 10-100 ms. You might want to look into this classic paper (read it with a critical mindset):

  • Shadlen, M. N. and Newsome, W. T. (1994). Noise, neural codes and cortical organization. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol., 4:569-579.

Or some biophysics book like:

  • $\begingroup$ What is effective integration time? and what is a typical neuron? Do you mean a physical one or a modeled one? $\endgroup$ – nico Sep 7 '16 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ @nico good questions. I should expand this answer at some point... $\endgroup$ – Memming Sep 7 '16 at 15:35

The length of an action potential (or spike) varies depending on several factors: refractory period, type of cell (interneurons tend to be faster) and where in the brain you are recording (in cortex both area and layer are important). Wikipedia page says something about 1ms for sodium based and 100ms for calcium based spikes.I never saw a 100ms AP, usually I record from cortex where I find AP in the range of ~1 to ~5ms.

The length of the integration however depends on too many factors, length of the dendritic tree, spatial location of the synapses, number of those synapses, strength, spine clustering, affinity and time constant of receptors, amount of Calcium, etc... the Shadlen and Newsome paper @Memming referred to is a good start. In general I'm always weary of magical numbers, if its a measurable phenomenon it's just what it is if not everithing comes with a lot of assumptions...

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this answers. Since you know about neuronal measurements in the cortex, you might perhaps also know an answer on this question on neural firing rates. Thanks again! $\endgroup$ – Lenar Hoyt Sep 7 '16 at 17:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.