Electrophysiological classes of cat primary visual cortical neurons in vivo as revealed by quantitative analyses

Lionel G. Nowak, Rony Azouz, Maria V. Sanchez-Vives, Charles M. Gray, David A. McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Scopus citations


To facilitate the characterization of cortical neuronal function, the responses of cells in cat area 17 to intracellular injection of current pulses were quantitatively analyzed. A variety of response variables were used to separate the cells into subtypes using cluster analysis. Four main classes of neurons could be clearly distinguished: regular spiking (RS), fast spiking (FS), intrinsic bursting (IB), and chattering (CH). Each of these contained significant subclasses. RS neurons were characterized by trains of action potentials that exhibited spike frequency adaptation. Morphologically, these cells were spiny stellate cells in layer 4 and pyramidal cells in layers 2, 3, 5, and 6. FS neurons had short-duration action potentials (<0.5 ms at half height), little or no spike frequency adaptation, and a steep relationship between injected current intensity and spike discharge frequency. Morphologically, these cells were sparsely spiny or aspiny nonpyramidal cells. IB neurons typically generated a low frequency (<425 Hz) burst of spikes at the beginning of a depolarizing current pulse followed by a tonic train of action potentials for the remainder of the pulse. These cells were observed in all cortical layers, but were most abundant in layer 5. Finally, CH neurons generated repetitive, high-frequency (350-700 Hz) bursts of short-duration (<0.55 ms) action potentials. Morphologically, these cells were layer 2-4 (mainly layer 3) pyramidal or spiny stellate neurons. These results indicate that firing properties do not form a continuum and that cortical neurons are members of distinct electrophysiological classes and subclasses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1566
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


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