Working Paper Hypothesis Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Upper Limit on the Thermodynamic Information Content of an Action Potential

Version 1 : Received: 2 February 2020 / Approved: 4 February 2020 / Online: 4 February 2020 (04:42:05 CET)

How to cite: Street, S. Upper Limit on the Thermodynamic Information Content of an Action Potential. Preprints 2020, 2020020035 Street, S. Upper Limit on the Thermodynamic Information Content of an Action Potential. Preprints 2020, 2020020035

Abstract

In computational neuroscience, spiking neurons are often analyzed as computing devices that register bits of information, with each action potential carrying at most one bit of Shannon entropy. Here, I question this interpretation by using Landauer's principle to estimate an upper limit for the quantity of thermodynamic information that can be dissipated by a single action potential in a typical mammalian neuron. I show that an action potential in a typical mammalian cortical pyramidal cell can carry up to approximately 3.4e11 natural units of thermodynamic information, or about 4.9e11 bits of Shannon entropy. This result suggests that an action potential can process much more information than a single bit of Shannon entropy.

Subject Areas

information; entropy; energy; thermodynamics; Landauer's principle; action potential

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