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Nat Neurosci. 1998 Jul;1(3):210-7.

Input synchrony and the irregular firing of cortical neurons.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Cortical neurons in the waking brain fire highly irregular, seemingly random, spike trains in response to constant sensory stimulation, whereas in vitro they fire regularly in response to constant current injection. To test whether, as has been suggested, this high in vivo variability could be due to the postsynaptic currents generated by independent synaptic inputs, we injected synthetic synaptic current into neocortical neurons in brain slices. We report that independent inputs cannot account for this high variability, but this variability can be explained by a simple alternative model of the synaptic drive in which inputs arrive synchronously. Our results suggest that synchrony may be important in the neural code by providing a means for encoding signals with high temporal fidelity over a population of neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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