Although examples of variation and diversity exist throughout the nervous system, their importance remains a source of debate. Even neurons of the same molecular type have notable intrinsic differences. Largely unknown, however, is the degree to which these differences impair or assist neural coding. We examined the outputs from a single type of neuron, the mitral cells of the mouse olfactory bulb, to identical stimuli and found that each cell's spiking response was dictated by its unique biophysical fingerprint. Using this intrinsic heterogeneity, diverse populations were able to code for twofold more information than their homogeneous counterparts. In addition, biophysical variability alone reduced pair-wise output spike correlations to low levels. Our results indicate that intrinsic neuronal diversity is important for neural coding and is not simply the result of biological imprecision.
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