Space Coding by Gamma Oscillations in the Barn Owl Optic Tectum

J Neurophysiol. 2011 May;105(5):2005-17. doi: 10.1152/jn.00965.2010. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Abstract

Gamma-band (25-140 Hz) oscillations of the local field potential (LFP) are evoked by sensory stimuli in the mammalian forebrain and may be strongly modulated in amplitude when animals attend to these stimuli. The optic tectum (OT) is a midbrain structure known to contribute to multimodal sensory processing, gaze control, and attention. We found that presentation of spatially localized stimuli, either visual or auditory, evoked robust gamma oscillations with distinctive properties in the superficial (visual) layers and in the deep (multimodal) layers of the owl's OT. Across layers, gamma power was tuned sharply for stimulus location and represented space topographically. In the superficial layers, induced LFP power peaked strongly in the low-gamma band (25-90 Hz) and increased gradually with visual contrast across a wide range of contrasts. Spikes recorded in these layers included presumptive axonal (input) spikes that encoded stimulus properties nearly identically with gamma oscillations and were tightly phase locked with the oscillations, suggesting that they contribute to the LFP oscillations. In the deep layers, induced LFP power was distributed across the low and high (90-140 Hz) gamma-bands and tended to reach its maximum value at relatively low visual contrasts. In these layers, gamma power was more sharply tuned for stimulus location, on average, than were somatic spike rates, and somatic spikes synchronized with gamma oscillations. Such gamma synchronized discharges of deep-layer neurons could provide a high-resolution temporal code for signaling the location of salient sensory stimuli.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Strigiformes / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology