Stimulus-Dependent Neuronal Oscillations in Cat Visual Cortex: Inter-Columnar Interaction as Determined by Cross-Correlation Analysis

Eur J Neurosci. 1990;2(7):588-606. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1990.tb00449.x.


We have demonstrated previously that neurons in cat striate cortex, in response to their preferred stimuli, exhibit oscillatory responses in a frequency range of 40 - 60 Hz. Recently, we obtained evidence that such oscillatory responses can synchronize across columns. We have now performed an extensive analysis of this phenomenon for both unit and field potential responses. In addition, we studied the stimulus conditions leading to intercolumnar synchronization. We recorded both multi-unit activity and local field potentials from area 17 of adult cats with arrays of several electrodes. Interelectrode distances ranged from 0.4 to 12 mm. For all pairs of unit (n=200) and field potential (n=174) recordings, we computed auto- and cross-correlation functions. The modulation of the correlograms was quantified by fitting a damped sine wave (Gabor) function to the data. Cross-correlation analysis of the unit data revealed that in 90 out of 200 cases the recorded cells established a constant phase-relationship of their oscillatory responses. This occurred, on average, with no phase difference. If the receptive fields were nonoverlapping, we observed a synchronization primarily between cells with similar orientation preferences. Cells with overlapping receptive fields also showed a high incidence of synchronization if their orientation preferences were different. In this latter group, synchronization occurred even in cases where the stimulus was optimal for only one of the recording sites. Under conditions of monocular instead of binocular stimulation the oscillatory modulation of the responses was attenuated, but the cross-correlogram still indicated a significant interaction. Similar effects were seen with the application of stationary instead of moving stimuli. A synchronization of oscillatory field potential responses was observed in 136 out of 174 paired recordings. At all distances investigated, the probability of synchronization of field potential responses was independent of the orientation preferences of the cells. However, the strength of interaction decreased with increasing spatial separation. Control experiments showed that the synchronization of field potential responses was not due to volume conduction. The results demonstrate that oscillatory responses at separate cortical sites can transiently synchronize. The probability and strength of synchronization are dependent on the spatial separation of the recorded cells and their orientation preferences. In addition, the cross-columnar synchronization is influenced by features of the visual stimulus. It is suggested that this synchronization provides a mechanism for the formation of neuronal assemblies in the visual cortex.