On the distribution of firing rates in networks of cortical neurons

J Neurosci. 2011 Nov 9;31(45):16217-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1677-11.2011.


The distribution of in vivo average firing rates within local cortical networks has been reported to be highly skewed and long tailed. The distribution of average single-cell inputs, conversely, is expected to be Gaussian by the central limit theorem. This raises the issue of how a skewed distribution of firing rates might result from a symmetric distribution of inputs. We argue that skewed rate distributions are a signature of the nonlinearity of the in vivo f-I curve. During in vivo conditions, ongoing synaptic activity produces significant fluctuations in the membrane potential of neurons, resulting in an expansive nonlinearity of the f-I curve for low and moderate inputs. Here, we investigate the effects of single-cell and network parameters on the shape of the f-I curve and, by extension, on the distribution of firing rates in randomly connected networks.

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
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Normal Distribution
  • Time Factors