Sequential structure of neocortical spontaneous activity in vivo

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 2;104(1):347-52. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0605643104. Epub 2006 Dec 21.


Even in the absence of sensory stimulation, the neocortex shows complex spontaneous activity patterns, often consisting of alternating "DOWN" states of generalized neural silence and "UP" states of massive, persistent network activity. To investigate how this spontaneous activity propagates through neuronal assemblies in vivo, we simultaneously recorded populations of 50-200 cortical neurons in layer V of anesthetized and awake rats. Each neuron displayed a virtually unique spike pattern during UP states, with diversity seen amongst both putative pyramidal cells and interneurons, reflecting a complex but stereotypically organized sequential spread of activation through local cortical networks. Spike timing was most precise during the first approximately 100 ms after UP state onset, and decayed as UP states progressed. A subset of UP states propagated as traveling waves, but waves passing a given point in either direction initiated similar local sequences, suggesting local networks as the substrate of sequential firing patterns. A search for repeating motifs indicated that their occurrence and structure was predictable from neurons' individual latencies to UP state onset. We suggest that these stereotyped patterns arise from the interplay of intrinsic cellular conductances and local circuit properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time