Dynamics of ongoing activity: explanation of the large variability in evoked cortical responses

Science. 1996 Sep 27;273(5283):1868-71. doi: 10.1126/science.273.5283.1868.


Evoked activity in the mammalian cortex and the resulting behavioral responses exhibit a large variability to repeated presentations of the same stimulus. This study examined whether the variability can be attributed to ongoing activity. Ongoing and evoked spatiotemporal activity patterns in the cat visual cortex were measured with real-time optical imaging; local field potentials and discharges of single neurons were recorded simultaneously, by electrophysiological techniques. The evoked activity appeared deterministic, and the variability resulted from the dynamics of ongoing activity, presumably reflecting the instantaneous state of cortical networks. In spite of the large variability, evoked responses in single trials could be predicted by linear summation of the deterministic response and the preceding ongoing activity. Ongoing activity must play an important role in cortical function and cannot be ignored in exploration of cognitive processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology