Bursts and recurrences of bursts in the spike trains of spontaneously active striate cortex neurons

J Neurophysiol. 1985 Apr;53(4):926-39. doi: 10.1152/jn.1985.53.4.926.


Simultaneous recordings were made from small collections (2-7) of spontaneously active single units in the striate cortex of unanesthetized cats, by means of chronically implanted electrodes. The recorded spike trains were computer scanned for bursts of spikes, and the bursts were catalogued and studied. The firing rates of the neurons ranged from 0.16 to 32 spikes/s; the mean was 8.9 spikes/s, the standard deviation 7.0 spikes/s. Bursts of spikes were assigned a quantitative measure, termed Poisson surprise (S), defined as the negative logarithm of their probability in a random (Poisson) spike train. Only bursts having S greater than 10, corresponding to an occurrence rate of about 0.01 bursts/1,000 spikes in a random spike train, were considered to be of interest. Bursts having S greater than 10 occurred at a rate of about 5-15 bursts/1,000 spikes, or about 1-5 bursts/min. The rate slightly increased with spike rate; averaging about 2 bursts/min for neurons having 3 spikes/s and about 4.5 bursts/min for neurons having 30 spikes/s. About 21% of the recorded units emitted significantly fewer bursts than the rest (below 1 burst/1,000 spikes). The percentage of these neurons was independent of spike rate. The spike rate during bursts was found to be about 3-6 times the average spike rate; about the same for longer as for shorter bursts. Bursts typically contained 10-50 spikes and lasted 0.5-2.0 s. When the number of spikes in the successively emitted bursts was listed, it was found that in some neurons these numbers were not distributed at random but were clustered around one or more preferred values. In this sense, bursts occasionally "recurred" a few times in a few minutes. The finding suggests that neurons are highly reliable. When bursts of two or more simultaneously recorded neurons were compared, the bursts often appeared to be temporally close, especially between pairs of neurons recorded by the same electrode; but bursts seldom started and ended simultaneously on two channels. Recurring bursts emitted by one neuron were occasionally accompanied by time-locked recurring bursts by other neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Computers
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*