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Nature. 1996 Oct 31;383(6603):815-9.

Precisely correlated firing in cells of the lateral geniculate nucleus.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology, The Rockefeller University, New York 10021, USA.


Simple cells within layer IV of the cat primary visual cortex are selective for lines of a specific orientation. It has been proposed that their receptive-field properties are established by the pattern of connections that they receive from the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus. Thalamic inputs, however, represent only a small proportion of the synapses made onto simple cells, and others have argued that corticocortical connections are likely to be important in shaping simple-cell response properties. Here we describe a mechanism that might be involved in selectively strengthening the effect of thalamic inputs. We show that neighbouring geniculate neurons with overlapping receptive fields of the same type (on-centre or off-centre) often fire spikes that are synchronized to within 1 millisecond. Moreover, these neurons often project to a common cortical target neuron where synchronous spikes are more effective in evoking a postsynaptic response. We propose that precisely correlated firing within a group of geniculate neurons could serve to reinforce the thalamic input to cortical simple cells.

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