A network of fast-spiking cells in the neocortex connected by electrical synapses

Nature. 1999 Nov 4;402(6757):72-5. doi: 10.1038/47029.


Encoding of information in the cortex is thought to depend on synchronous firing of cortical neurons. Inhibitory neurons are known to be critical in the coordination of cortical activity, but how interaction among inhibitory cells promotes synchrony is not well understood. To address this issue directly, we have recorded simultaneously from pairs of fast-spiking (FS) cells, a type of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-containing neocortical interneuron. Here we report a high occurrence of electrical coupling among FS cells. Electrical synapses were not found among pyramidal neurons or between FS cells and other cortical cells. Some FS cells were interconnected by both electrical and GABAergic synapses. We show that communication through electrical synapses allows excitatory signalling among inhibitory cells and promotes their synchronous spiking. These results indicate that electrical synapses establish a network of fast-spiking cells in the neocortex which may play a key role in coordinating cortical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Neocortex / anatomy & histology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid