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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Dec;16(12):745-55. doi: 10.1038/nrn4026. Epub 2015 Oct 28.

Packet-based communication in the cortex.

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Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K3M4, Canada.
Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Department of Neurobiology and Behaviour, University of California at Irvine, 2205 McGaugh Hall, Irvine, California 92697-4550, USA.
Institute of Neurology, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology, University College London, 21 University Street, London WC1E 6DE, UK.


Cortical circuits work through the generation of coordinated, large-scale activity patterns. In sensory systems, the onset of a discrete stimulus usually evokes a temporally organized packet of population activity lasting ∼50-200 ms. The structure of these packets is partially stereotypical, and variation in the exact timing and number of spikes within a packet conveys information about the identity of the stimulus. Similar packets also occur during ongoing stimuli and spontaneously. We suggest that such packets constitute the basic building blocks of cortical coding.

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