Statistical significance of precisely repeated intracellular synaptic patterns

PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e3983. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003983. Epub 2008 Dec 19.


Can neuronal networks produce patterns of activity with millisecond accuracy? It may seem unlikely, considering the probabilistic nature of synaptic transmission. However, some theories of brain function predict that such precision is feasible and can emerge from the non-linearity of the action potential generation in circuits of connected neurons. Several studies have presented evidence for and against this hypothesis. Our earlier work supported the precision hypothesis, based on results demonstrating that precise patterns of synaptic inputs could be found in intracellular recordings from neurons in brain slices and in vivo. To test this hypothesis, we devised a method for finding precise repeats of activity and compared repeats found in the data to those found in surrogate datasets made by shuffling the original data. Because more repeats were found in the original data than in the surrogate data sets, we argued that repeats were not due to chance occurrence. Mokeichev et al. (2007) challenged these conclusions, arguing that the generation of surrogate data was insufficiently rigorous. We have now reanalyzed our previous data with the methods introduced from Mokeichev et al. (2007). Our reanalysis reveals that repeats are statistically significant, thus supporting our earlier conclusions, while also supporting many conclusions that Mokeichev et al. (2007) drew from their recent in vivo recordings. Moreover, we also show that the conditions under which the membrane potential is recorded contributes significantly to the ability to detect repeats and may explain conflicting results. In conclusion, our reevaluation resolves the methodological contradictions between Ikegaya et al. (2004) and Mokeichev et al. (2007), but demonstrates the validity of our previous conclusion that spontaneous network activity is non-randomly organized.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Intracellular Space / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Periodicity*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*