Despite the importance of the discharge frequency in neuronal communication, little is known about the firing-rate patterns of cortical populations. Using large-scale recordings from multiple layers of the entorhinal-hippocampal loop, we found that the firing rates of principal neurons showed a lognormal-like distribution in all brain states. Mean and peak rates within place fields of hippocampal neurons were also strongly skewed. Importantly, firing rates of the same neurons showed reliable correlations in different brain states and testing situations, as well as across familiar and novel environments. The fraction of neurons that participated in population oscillations displayed a lognormal pattern. Such skewed firing rates of individual neurons may be due to a skewed distribution of synaptic weights, which is supported by our observation of a lognormal distribution of the efficacy of spike transfer from principal neurons to interneurons. The persistent skewed distribution of firing rates implies that a preconfigured, highly active minority dominates information transmission in cortical networks.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.