Common excitatory input to neurons increases their firing rates and the strength of the spike correlation (synchrony) between them. Little is known, however, about the synchronizing effects of modulatory common input. Here we show that modulatory common input with the slow synaptic kinetics of NMDA receptors enhances firing rates and also produces synchrony. Tight synchrony (correlations on the order of milliseconds) always increases with modulatory strength. Unexpectedly, the relationship between strength of modulation and strength of loose synchrony (tens of milliseconds) is not monotonic: The strongest loose synchrony is obtained for intermediate modulatory amplitudes. This finding explains recent neurophysiological results showing that in cortical areas V1 and V2, presumed modulatory top-down input due to contour grouping increases (loose and tight) synchrony, but that additional modulatory input due to top-down attention does not change tight synchrony, and actually decreases loose synchrony. These neurophysiological findings are understood from our model of integrate-and-fire neurons under the assumption that contour grouping as well as attention lead to additive modulatory common input through NMDA-type synapses. In contrast, circuits with common projections through model AMPA receptors did not exhibit the paradoxical decrease of synchrony with increased input. Our results suggest that NMDA receptors play a critical role in top-down response modulation in visual cortex.
- Selective Attention
- NMDA-type synapse
- Modulatory input
- Copyright © 2015, Journal of Neurophysiology