Correlated firing in macaque visual area MT: Time scales and relationship to behavior

Wyeth Bair*, Ehud Zohary, William T. Newsome

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

398 Scopus citations


We studied the simultaneous activity of pairs of neurons recorded with a single electrode in visual cortical area MT while monkeys performed a direction discrimination task. Previously, we reported the strength of interneuronal correlation of spike count on the time scale of the behavioral epoch (2 sec) and noted its potential impact on signal pooling (Zohary et al., 1994). We have now examined correlation at longer and shorter time scales and found that pair-wise cross-correlation was predominantly short term (10-100 msec). Narrow, central peaks in the spike train cross-correlograms were largely responsible for correlated spike counts on the time scale of the behavioral epoch. Longer-term (many seconds to minutes) changes in the responsiveness of single neurons were observed in auto-correlations; however, these slow changes in time were on average uncorrelated between neurons. Knowledge of the limited time scale of correlation allowed the derivation of a more efficient metric for spike count correlation based on spike timing information, and it also revealed a potential relative advantage of larger neuronal pools for shorter integration times. Finally, correlation did not depend on the presence of the visual stimulus or the behavioral choice of the animal. It varied little with stimulus condition but was stronger between neurons with similar direction tuning curves. Taken together, our results strengthen the view that common input, common stimulus selectivity, and common noise are tightly linked in functioning cortical circuits.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1676-1697
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2001


  • Area MT/V5
  • Cross-correlation
  • Extrastriate cortex
  • Neuronal pooling
  • Noise correlation
  • Stimulus-locked modulation
  • Synchrony
  • Visual cortex
  • Visual motion


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