Many lines of theoretical and experimental investigation have suggested that gamma oscillations provide a temporal framework for cortical information processing, acting to either synchronize neuronal firing, restrict neuron's relative spike times, and/or provide a global reference signal to which neurons encode input strength. Each theory has been disputed and some believe that gamma is an epiphenomenon. We investigated the biophysical plausibility of these theories by performing in vitro whole-cell recordings from 6 cortical neuron subtypes and examining how gamma-band and slow fluctuations in injected input affect precision and phase of spike timing. We find that gamma is at least partially able to restrict the spike timing in all subtypes tested, but to varying degrees. Gamma exerts more precise control of spike timing in pyramidal neurons involved in cortico-cortical versus cortico-subcortical communication and in inhibitory neurons that target somatic versus dendritic compartments. We also find that relatively few subtypes are capable of phase-based information coding. Using simple neuron models and dynamic clamp, we determine which intrinsic differences lead to these variations in responsiveness and discuss both the flexibility and confounds of gamma-based spike-timing systems.
Keywords: dynamic clamp; information coding; inhibition; neurophysiology.
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