Persistent cortical activity: mechanisms of generation and effects on neuronal excitability

Cereb Cortex. 2003 Nov;13(11):1219-31. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhg104.


Local cortical networks in the prefrontal cortex and visual cortex are capable of spontaneously generating sustained activity for periods of seconds or longer. This sustained activity is generated through recurrent excitation between pyramidal cells that is controlled by feedback inhibition and can have both a rapid onset and a rapid offset. The period of activity is associated with a marked increase in neuronal responsiveness to the intracellular injection of current pulses, especially those of smaller amplitude. Independently mimicking the depolarization, increase in membrane conductance and increase in noise associated with sustained activity revealed that the depolarization is largely responsible for the increase in neuronal responsiveness, although an increase in membrane noise also facilitates responses to small inputs. These results indicate that the persistent activity associated with the performance of working memory tasks may be generated largely through recurrent networks. They also suggest that feedback pathways, such as those involved in selective attention, may exert a powerful influence on neuronal responsiveness through synaptic bombardment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Ferrets
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*