Firing patterns of single units in the prefrontal cortex and neural network models

M. Abeles*, E. Vaadia, H. Bergman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The occurrences of high-frequency bursts of neural activity and the probability distribution of firing rates of neurons were investigated in the behaving monkey. The activity of 8 to 11 single units was recorded in parallel through six metal microelectrodes from the frontal cortical areas. High-frequency (>150 Hz) bursts of three or more spikes in succession were extremely rare, occurring at an average rate of 0.068 per second per neuron. The probability of observing a burst in one neuron was not affected by the fact that another adjacent neuron emitted a burst. Thus, if a high-frequency burst represents the 'on' state of a neuron, we failed to demonstrate persistent states in which a group of neurons is turned 'on' together. The firing rates of the neurons were usually low. The probability of a neuron firing a few (2-5) spikes within a narrow (10-100 ms) time window was very low (<0.003). The probability density of firing rates did not show any sign of inhomogeneity, thus failing to show that the neurons tended to be either in a state of high firing rate or in a state of low firing rate for any periods of time. The low probability of finding a neuron with an elevated firing rate means either that a given cortical area is idle most of the time, or that, in a given process, only a few neurons elevate their firing rates at any one time. The relevance of these findings to neural network models is discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalNetwork: Computation in Neural Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank V Sharkansky for her help in the artwork and P J Novak for language editing. This research was supported in part by grant no 86-269 from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF),and by the Fund for Basic Research, administered by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.


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