Coupled variability in primary sensory areas and the hippocampus during spontaneous activity

Nivaldo A. P. de Vasconcelos, Carina Soares-Cunha, Ana João Rodrigues, Sidarta Ribeiro and Nuno Sousa

The cerebral cortex is an anatomically divided and functionally specialized structure. It includes distinct areas, which work on different states over time. The structural features of spiking activity in sensory cortices have been characterized during spontaneous and evoked activity. However, the coordination among cortical and sub-cortical neurons during spontaneous activity across different states remains poorly characterized. We addressed this issue by studying the temporal coupling of spiking variability recorded from primary sensory cortices and hippocampus of anesthetized or freely behaving rats. During spontaneous activity, spiking variability was highly correlated across primary cortical sensory areas at both small and large spatial scales, whereas the cortico-hippocampal correlation was modest. This general pattern of spiking variability was observed under urethane anesthesia, as well as during waking, slow-wave sleep and rapid-eye-movement sleep, and was unchanged by novel stimulation. These results support the notion that primary sensory areas are strongly coupled during spontaneous activity.

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