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Nat Neurosci. 2001 Feb;4(2):194-200.

Rapid feature selective neuronal synchronization through correlated latency shifting.

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Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research, Deutshcordenstrasse 46, 60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Spontaneous brain activity could affect processing if it were structured. We show that neuron pairs in cat primary visual cortex exhibited correlated fluctuations in response latency, particularly when they had overlapping receptive fields or similar orientation preferences. Correlations occurred within and across hemispheres, but only when local field potentials (LFPs) oscillated in the gamma-frequency range (40-70 Hz). In this range, LFP fluctuations preceding response onset predicted response latencies; negative (positive) LFPs were associated with early (late) responses. Oscillations below 10 Hz caused covariations in response amplitude, but exhibited no columnar selectivity or coordinating effect on latencies. Thus, during high gamma activity, spontaneous activity exhibits distinct, column-specific correlation patterns. Consequently, cortical cells undergo coherent fluctuations in excitability that enhance temporal coherence of responses to contours that are spatially contiguous or have similar orientation. Because synchronized responses are more likely than dispersed responses to undergo rapid and joint processing, spontaneous activity may be important in early visual processes.

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