Tuning neocortical pyramidal neurons between integrators and coincidence detectors

Michael Rudolph and Alain Destexhe

Journal of Computational Neuroscience 14: 239-251, 2003.

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Do cortical neurons operate as integrators or as coincidence detectors? Despite the importance of this question, no definite answer has been given yet, because each of these two views can find its own experimental support. Here we investigated this question using models of morphologically-reconstructed neocortical pyramidal neurons under in-vivo--like conditions. In agreement with experiments we find that the cell is capable of operating in a continuum between coincidence detection and temporal integration, depending on the characteristics of the synaptic inputs. Moreover, the presence of synaptic background activity at a level comparable to intracellular measurements in vivo can modulate the operating mode of the cell, and act as a switch between temporal integration and coincidence detection. These results suggest that background activity can be viewed as an important determinant of the integrative mode of pyramidal neurons. Thus, background activity not only sharpens cortical responses but it can also be used to tune an entire network between integration and coincidence detection modes.
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