General

The Poisson process was discovered by Simeon-Denis Poisson (1781-1840) and describes a statistic point process of single events which occur ramdom in time.

An example for a possion process is the decay of some types of radioactive isotopes.

The Poisson distribution is given by

denotes the discret propability that occurs given the expectation value . For a example how the Poisson distribution looks like for different values of see the following graph.

The joint probability distribution of n independent Poisson processes is

if .

The Poisson process as biological approximation

The examination of the cortex showed that the neural response-properties are highly variable [1,2,3,5,6]. The observed interspike-interval-distribution [4] looks like the exponential interevent-distribution (the interevent-distribution defines the propability of the time-interval-length between two events) of the Poisson process.

The Poisson process and the tuning-function

The tuning-functions and the Poisson process are connected through the expectation value . The tuning-function multiplied with the size of the timewindow is used as the mean spikerate for the Poisson process.

Literature

[1] Britten KH, Shadlen MN, Newsome WT, Movshon JA (1993)

Responses of neurons in macaque MT to stochastic motion signals.

Vis Neurosci 10:1157-1169

[2] Burns BD, Webb AC (1976)

The spontaneous activity of neurones in the cat's cerebral cortex.

Neuron 20:959-969

[3] Snowden RJ, Treue S, Andersen RA (1992)

The response of neurons in areas V1 and MT of the alert rhesus monkey to moving random dot patterns.

Exp Brain Res 88:389-400

[4] Softky W.R. , Koch C. (1993)

The highly irregular fireing of cortical cells is inconsistent with temporal integration of random EPSPs

Journal of Neuroscience, 13:334-350

[5] Tollhurst DJ, Movshon JA, Dean AF (1983)

The statistical reliability of signals in single neurons in cat and monkey visual cortex.

Vision Res 23:775-785

[6] Tomko, G., Crapper, D. (1974)

Neuronal variability: non-stationary responses to identical visual stimuli.

Brain Res 79:405-418