Neurons in the visual cortex exhibit heterogeneity in feature selectivity and the tendency to generate action potentials synchronously with other nearby neurons. By examining visual responses from cat area 17 we found that, during gamma oscillations, there was a positive correlation between each unit's sharpness of orientation tuning, strength of oscillations, and propensity towards synchronisation with other units. Using a computational model, we demonstrated that heterogeneity in the strength of rhythmic inhibitory inputs can account for the correlations between these three properties. Neurons subject to strong inhibition tend to oscillate strongly in response to both optimal and suboptimal stimuli and synchronise promiscuously with other neurons, even if they have different orientation preferences. Moreover, these strongly inhibited neurons can exhibit sharp orientation selectivity provided that the inhibition they receive is broadly tuned relative to their excitatory inputs. These results predict that the strength and orientation tuning of synaptic inhibition are heterogeneous across area 17 neurons, which could have important implications for these neurons' sensory processing capabilities. Furthermore, although our experimental recordings were conducted in the visual cortex, our model and simulation results can apply more generally to any brain region with analogous neuron types in which heterogeneity in the strength of rhythmic inhibition can arise during gamma oscillations.
Recordings from cat area 17 during gamma oscillations reveal a positive correlation between each unit's orientation selectivity, strength of oscillations, and propensity towards synchronisation with other units, with ‘synchronisation hubs’ denoting the most promiscuous synchronisers. Using a computational model, we demonstrate that variations in the strength of rhythmic inhibitory inputs can account for the correlations between these three properties and the formation of synchronisation hubs.