Spontaneous and stimulus-induced responses were recorded from neighboring groups of neurons by an array of electrodes in the primary (SI) somatosensory cortex of intact, halothane-anesthetized cats. Cross- correlation analysis was used to characterize the coordination of spontaneous activity and the responses to peripheral stimulation with moving or stationary air jets. Although synchronization was detected in only 10% (88 of 880) of the pairs of single neurons that were recorded, cross-correlation analysis of multiunit responses revealed significant levels of synchronization in 64% of the 123 recorded electrode pairs. Compared with spontaneous activity, both stationary and moving air jets caused substantial increases in the rate, proportion, and temporal precision of synchronized activity in local regions of SI cortex. Among populations of neurons that were synchronized by both types of air-jet stimulation, the mean rate of synchronized activity was significantly higher during moving air-jet stimulation than during stationary air-jet stimulation. Moving air jets also produced significantly higher correlation coefficients than stationary air jets in the raw cross-correlograms (CCGs) but not in the shift-corrected CCGs. The incidence and rate of stimulus-induced synchronization varied with the distance separating the recording sites. For sites separated by ≤300 μm, 80% of the multiunit responses displayed significant levels of synchronization during both types of air-jet stimulation. For sites separated by ≥500 μm, only 37% of the multiunit responses were synchronized by discrete stimulation with a single air jet. Measurements of the multiunit CCG peak half-widths showed that the correlated activity produced by moving air jets had slightly less temporal variability than that produced by stationary air jets. These results indicate that moving stimuli produce greater levels of synchronization than stationary stimuli among local groups of SI neurons and suggest that neuronal synchronization may supplement the changes in firing rate which code intensity and other attributes of a cutaneous stimulus.
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