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Cell Rep. 2013 Sep 12;4(5):1010-21. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2013.07.039. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

Preconfigured, skewed distribution of firing rates in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.

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NYU Neuroscience Institute, Langone Medical Center, New York University, New York, NY 10016, USA; Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA 98103, USA. Electronic address:


Despite the importance of the discharge frequency in neuronal communication, little is known about the firing-rate patterns of cortical populations. Using large-scale recordings from multiple layers of the entorhinal-hippocampal loop, we found that the firing rates of principal neurons showed a lognormal-like distribution in all brain states. Mean and peak rates within place fields of hippocampal neurons were also strongly skewed. Importantly, firing rates of the same neurons showed reliable correlations in different brain states and testing situations, as well as across familiar and novel environments. The fraction of neurons that participated in population oscillations displayed a lognormal pattern. Such skewed firing rates of individual neurons may be due to a skewed distribution of synaptic weights, which is supported by our observation of a lognormal distribution of the efficacy of spike transfer from principal neurons to interneurons. The persistent skewed distribution of firing rates implies that a preconfigured, highly active minority dominates information transmission in cortical networks.

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