Action potentials (spikes) can trigger the release of a neurotransmitter at chemical synapses between neurons. Such release is uncertain, as it occurs only with a certain probability. Moreover, synaptic release can occur independently of an action potential (asynchronous release) and depends on the history of synaptic activity. We focus here on short-term synaptic facilitation, in which a sequence of action potentials can temporarily increase the release probability of the synapse. In contrast to the phenomenon of short-term depression, quantifying the information transmission in facilitating synapses remains to be done. We find rigorous lower and upper bounds for the rate of information transmission in a model of synaptic facilitation. We treat the synapse as a two-state binary asymmetric channel, in which the arrival of an action potential shifts the synapse to a facilitated state, while in the absence of a spike, the synapse returns to its baseline state. The information bounds are functions of both the asynchronous and synchronous release parameters. If synchronous release facilitates more than asynchronous release, the mutual information rate increases. In contrast, short-term facilitation degrades information transmission when the synchronous release probability is intrinsically high. As synaptic release is energetically expensive, we exploit the information bounds to determine the energy–information trade-off in facilitating synapses. We show that unlike information rate, the energy-normalized information rate is robust with respect to variations in the strength of facilitation.
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