Variability of neuronal responses: Types and functional significance in neuroplasticity and neural darwinism

Alexander V. Chervyakov, Dmitry O. Sinitsyn, Michael A. Piradov, Mikhail Lebedev, Hugo Merchant, Yoshio Sakurai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


HIGHLIGHTS • We suggest classifying variability of neuronal responses as follows: false (associated with a lack of knowledge about the influential factors), "genuine harmful" (noise), "genuine neutral" (synonyms, repeats), and "genuine useful" (the basis of neuroplasticity and learning). • The genuine neutral variability is considered in terms of the phenomenon of degeneracy. • Of particular importance is the genuine useful variability that is considered as a potential basis for neuroplasticity and learning. This type of variability is considered in terms of the neural Darwinism theory. In many cases, neural signals detected under the same external experimental conditions significantly change from trial to trial. The variability phenomenon, which complicates extraction of reproducible results and is ignored in many studies by averaging, has attracted attention of researchers in recent years. In this paper, we classify possible types of variability based on its functional significance and describe features of each type. We describe the key adaptive significance of variability at the neural network level and the degeneracy phenomenon that may be important for learning processes in connection with the principle of neuronal group selection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number603
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberNOV2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Degeneracy
  • Motor evoked potentials
  • Neural darwinism
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Variability of neuronal responses


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