Influence of low and high frequency inputs on spike timing in visual cortical neurons

Cereb Cortex. 1997 Sep;7(6):487-501. doi: 10.1093/cercor/7.6.487.


Cortical neurons in vivo respond to sensory stimuli with the generation of action potentials that can show a high degree of variability in both their number and timing with repeated presentations as wells as, on occasion, a high degree of synchronization with other cortical neurons, including in the gamma frequency range of 30-70 Hz. Here we examined whether or not this variability may arise from the intrinsic mechanisms of action potential generation in cortical regular spiking, fast spiking and intrinsic burst-generating neurons maintained in vitro. For this purpose, we performed intracellular recordings in slices of ferret visual cortex and activated these cells with the intracellular injection of various current waveforms. Some of these waveforms were derived from barrages of postsynaptic potentials evoked by visual stimulation recorded in vivo; others were artificially created and contained various amounts of gamma range fluctuations; finally, others consisted of swept-sinewave current (ZAP current) functions. Using such stimuli, we found that, as expected given the resistive and capacitive properties of cortical neurons, low frequencies have a larger effect on the membrane potential of cortical neurons than do higher frequencies. However, increasing the amount of gamma range fluctuations in a stimulus leads to more precise timing of action potentials. This suggests that different frequencies play different roles, low frequencies being efficient for depolarizing cells with high frequencies increasing the precision of action potential timing. In parallel to increases in temporal precision, the addition of higher frequency components increases the range of interspike intervals present in the action potential discharge. These results suggest that higher frequency components such as gamma range fluctuations may facilitate the generation of action potentials with a high temporal precision while at the same time exhibiting a high degree of variability in interspike intervals on single trials. This temporal precision may facilitate the use of temporal codes or the generation of precise synchronization for the transmission and analysis of information within cortical networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Female
  • Ferrets / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*