How synchronization protects from noise

Tabareau, Nicolas
Slotine, Jean-Jacques
Pham, Quang-Cuong
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Synchronization phenomena are pervasive in biology. In neuronal networks, the mechanisms of synchronization have been extensively studied from both physiological and computational viewpoints. The functional role of synchronization has also attracted much interest and debate. In particular, synchronization may allow distant sites in the brain to communicate and cooperate with each other, and therefore it may play a role in temporal binding and in attention and sensory-motor integration mechanisms. In this article, we study another role for synchronization: the so-called "collective enhancement of precision." We argue, in a full nonlinear dynamical context, that synchronization may help protect interconnected neurons from the influence of random perturbations -- intrinsic neuronal noise -- which affect all neurons in the nervous system. This property may allow reliable computations to be carried out even in the presence of significant noise (as experimentally found e.g., in retinal ganglion cells in primates), as mathematically it is key to obtaining meaningful downstream signals, whether in terms of precisely-timed interaction (temporal coding), population coding, or frequency coding. Using stochastic contraction theory, we show how synchronization of nonlinear dynamical systems helps protect these systems from random perturbations. Our main contribution is a mathematical proof that, under specific quantified conditions, the impact of noise on each individual system and on the spatial mean can essentially be cancelled through synchronization. Similar concepts may be applicable to questions in systems biology.
Comment: 14 pages, 5 figures
Quantitative Biology - Neurons and Cognition