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In the article "A Topological Paradigm for Hippocampal Spatial Map Formation Using Persistent Homology" by Y. Dabaghian, F. Mémoli, L. Frank, G. Carlsson I read some sentences with huge confusion concerning the use of the termss firing and spiking. Do they mean the same thing? It seems to me that when they say a place cell is firing or a place cell is spiking they refer to exactly the same thing. The confusion comes from using both words in the same sentence as in the following sample sentences from the article (emphasis mine):

Indeed, a rat’s path through a small space can later be re-traced with a high degree of accuracy by recording hippocampal spiking activity during its explorations and then analyzing the location, size, and firing rates of a mere 40–50 place fields [...]

To understand what algorithms the brain might use to decode hippocampal place cell firing, then, we should rely solely on the information provided by place cell spiking activity [...]

It is, in fact, generally assumed that neurons downstream of the hippocampus interpret place cell spiking patterns based on co-firing [...]

It should thus be possible to trace the emergence of topological information as more and more spikes are fired [...]

There are biophysical variables (firing rates, spike amplitude, etc.) [...]

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In your quotes, the terms spiking and firing are used as synonyms. Indeed, both terms refer to the same phenomenon of action potential generation and in this context there is no physiological functional difference between spiking and firing.

However, note that in some contexts there may be a difference, namely some authors distinguish between a neuron spiking and bursting; the former referring to a tonic firing mode, the latter to a bursting firing mode (e.g. Ramcharan et al. (2000)).

Reference
- Ramcharan et al., Vis Neurosci (2000); 17(1):55-62

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  • $\begingroup$ If they are the same how can we explain the second quote:"To understand what algorithms the brain might use to decode hippocampal place cell firing, then, we should rely solely on the information provided by place cell spiking activity." It seems to me that if we replace spiking by firing the sentence has no meaning at all !! $\endgroup$ – palio Dec 7 '17 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ @palio the authors use it as synonyms. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 7 '17 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ @palio, AliceD is correct. In that particular sentence they mean 'spiking as opposed to external information' such as the "geometry of [...] the environment". The authors could be more clear overall. I haven't read the paper but I spotted at least a couple of logical fallacies. $\endgroup$ – vkehayas Dec 7 '17 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ I agree except for the bit about spiking and bursting; I don't know of anyone who would say a cell that is bursting is not also "spiking." $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 8 '17 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause agreed, that's why I say explicitly some authors and adding a reference besides. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 8 '17 at 6:48

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