Extracellular discharges were recorded from 205 neurons in the secondary somatosensory (SII) cortex of isoflurane-anesthetized cats. Cross-correlation analysis was used to characterize the temporal coordination of SII neurons recorded during cutaneous stimulation with a focal air jet that moved back-and-forth across the distal forelimb. Over two-thirds of the recorded neuron pairs (n=357) displayed significant levels of synchronized activity during one or both directions of air-jet movement. The probability of detecting correlated activity varied according to the distance separating the neurons. Whereas synchronized responses were observed in 82.3% of the pairs in which the neurons were separated by 200-300 μm, the incidence of synchronization declined to 52.3% for neurons that were separated by 600-800 μm. The distance between neurons also had a significant effect on the temporal precision of correlated activity. For neurons that were separated by 200-300 μm, synchronized responses in the cross-correlograms (CCGs) were characterized by narrow (0.5-1.0 ms) peaks at time zero. For SII neurons that were more widely separated, the peak half-widths were substantially broader and more likely to be displaced from time zero. Analysis of directional sensitivity indicated that only 14.2% of the correlated neurons displayed a directional preference for synchronized activity. By comparison, 63.4% of the neurons displayed a directional preference in their discharge rate. These results indicate that stimulus-induced synchronization is a prominent feature among local populations of SII neurons, but synchronization does not appear to play a critical role in coding the direction of stimulus movement. A comparison of these results with those obtained from similar experiments conducted in primary somatosensory (SI) cortex indicates that neuronal synchronization is more likely in SII cortex. This finding is discussed with respect to the known functional differences between the SI and SII cortical areas.
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