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J Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;595(1):385-413. doi: 10.1113/JP272794. Epub 2016 Nov 7.

Large-scale analysis reveals populational contributions of cortical spike rate and synchrony to behavioural functions.

Author information

Brain Science Institute, Tamagawa University, Tokyo, Japan.
JST CREST, Tokyo, Japan.
Division of Visual Information Processing, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Okazaki, Japan.
Department of Physiological Sciences, SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Okazaki, Japan.
Laboratory of Neural Circuitry, Graduate School of Brain Science, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan.
Present address: Faculty of Human Life Studies, Department of Food and Nutrition, Hagoromo University of International Studies, Osaka, Japan.



There have been few systematic population-wide analyses of relationships between spike synchrony within a period of several milliseconds and behavioural functions. In this study, we obtained a large amount of spike data from > 23,000 neuron pairs by multiple single-unit recording from deep layer neurons in motor cortical areas in rats performing a forelimb movement task. The temporal changes of spike synchrony in the whole neuron pairs were statistically independent of behavioural changes during the task performance, although some neuron pairs exhibited correlated changes in spike synchrony. Mutual information analyses revealed that spike synchrony made a smaller contribution than spike rate to behavioural functions. The strength of spike synchrony between two neurons was statistically independent of the spike rate-based preferences of the pair for behavioural functions.


Spike synchrony within a period of several milliseconds in presynaptic neurons enables effective integration of functional information in the postsynaptic neuron. However, few studies have systematically analysed the population-wide relationships between spike synchrony and behavioural functions. Here we obtained a sufficiently large amount of spike data among regular-spiking (putatively excitatory) and fast-spiking (putatively inhibitory) neuron subtypes (> 23,000 pairs) by multiple single-unit recording from deep layers in motor cortical areas (caudal forelimb area, rostral forelimb area) in rats performing a forelimb movement task. After holding a lever, rats pulled the lever either in response to a cue tone (external-trigger trials) or spontaneously without any cue (internal-trigger trials). Many neurons exhibited functional spike activity in association with forelimb movements, and the preference of regular-spiking neurons in the rostral forelimb area was more biased toward externally triggered movement than that in the caudal forelimb area. We found that a population of neuron pairs with spike synchrony does exist, and that some neuron pairs exhibit a dependence on movement phase during task performance. However, the population-wide analysis revealed that spike synchrony was statistically independent of the movement phase and the spike rate-based preferences of the pair for behavioural functions, whereas spike rates were clearly dependent on the movement phase. In fact, mutual information analyses revealed that the contribution of spike synchrony to the behavioural functions was small relative to the contribution of spike rate. Our large-scale analysis revealed that cortical spike rate, rather than spike synchrony, contributes to population coding for movement.


cortical spike synchronization; forelimb movement; multiple single-unit recording

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