Electrophysiological classes of cat primary visual cortical neurons in vivo as revealed by quantitative analyses

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Mar;89(3):1541-66. doi: 10.1152/jn.00580.2002.


To facilitate the characterization of cortical neuronal function, the responses of cells in cat area 17 to intracellular injection of current pulses were quantitatively analyzed. A variety of response variables were used to separate the cells into subtypes using cluster analysis. Four main classes of neurons could be clearly distinguished: regular spiking (RS), fast spiking (FS), intrinsic bursting (IB), and chattering (CH). Each of these contained significant subclasses. RS neurons were characterized by trains of action potentials that exhibited spike frequency adaptation. Morphologically, these cells were spiny stellate cells in layer 4 and pyramidal cells in layers 2, 3, 5, and 6. FS neurons had short-duration action potentials (<0.5 ms at half height), little or no spike frequency adaptation, and a steep relationship between injected current intensity and spike discharge frequency. Morphologically, these cells were sparsely spiny or aspiny nonpyramidal cells. IB neurons typically generated a low frequency (<425 Hz) burst of spikes at the beginning of a depolarizing current pulse followed by a tonic train of action potentials for the remainder of the pulse. These cells were observed in all cortical layers, but were most abundant in layer 5. Finally, CH neurons generated repetitive, high-frequency (350-700 Hz) bursts of short-duration (<0.55 ms) action potentials. Morphologically, these cells were layer 2-4 (mainly layer 3) pyramidal or spiny stellate neurons. These results indicate that firing properties do not form a continuum and that cortical neurons are members of distinct electrophysiological classes and subclasses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Periodicity
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology