Synchrony: A neural correlate of somatosensory attention

A. Roy, P. N. Steinmetz, S. S. Hsiao, K. O. Johnson, E. Niebur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We investigated whether synchrony between neuronal spike trains is affected by the animal's attentional state. Cross-correlation functions between pairs of spike trains in the second somatosensory cortex (SII) of three macaque monkeys trained to switch attention between a visual task and a tactile task were computed. We previously showed that the majority of recorded neuron pairs (66%) in SII cortex fire synchronously while the animals performed either task and that in a subset of neuron pairs (17%), the degree of synchrony was affected by the animal's attentional state. Of the neuron pairs that showed changes in synchrony with attention, about 80% showed increased synchrony when the animal attended to the tactile stimulus. Here, we show that peak correlation typically occurred at a delay <25 ms; most commonly the delay was close to zero. Half-widths of the correlation peaks were distributed between a few milliseconds and hundreds of milliseconds, with the majority lying <100 ms and the mode of the distribution around 20-30 ms. Maximal change in synchrony occurred mainly during the periods when the stimulus was present, and synchrony usually increased when attention was on the tactile stimulus. If periods of elevated firing rates around the motor response times were removed from the analysis, the percentage of pairs that changed the degree of synchrony with attention more than doubled (from 35 to 72%). The observed effects did not depend on details of the statistical criteria or of the time window used in the analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1645-1661
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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