In the past decade the importance of synchronized dynamics in the brain has emerged from both empirical and theoretical perspectives. Fast dynamic synchronous interactions of an oscillatory or nonoscillatory nature may constitute a form of temporal coding that underlies feature binding and perceptual synthesis. The relationship between synchronization among neuronal populations and the population firing rates addresses two important issues: the distinction between rate coding and synchronization coding models of neuronal interactions and the degree to which empirical measurements of population activity, such as those employed by neuroimaging, are sensitive to changes in synchronization. We examined the relationship between mean population activity and synchronization using biologically plausible simulations. In this article, we focus on continuous stationary dynamics. (In a companion article, Chawla (forth-coming), we address the same issue using stimulus-evoked transients.) By manipulating parameters such as extrinsic input, intrinsic noise, synaptic efficacy, density of extrinsic connections, the voltage-sensitive nature of postsynaptic mechanisms, the number of neurons, and the laminar structure within the populations, we were able to introduce variations in both mean activity and synchronization under a variety of simulated neuronal architectures. Analyses of the simulated spike trains and local field potentials showed that in nearly every domain of the model's parameter space, mean activity and synchronization were tightly coupled. This coupling appears to be mediated by an increase in synchronous gain when effective membrane time constants are lowered by increased activity. These observations show that under the assumptions implicit in our models, rate coding and synchrony coding in neural systems with reciprocal interconnections are two perspectives on the same underlying dynamic. This suggests that in the absence of specific mechanisms decoupling changes in synchronization from firing levels, indexes of brain activity that are based purely on synaptic activity (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging) may also be sensitive to changes in synchronous coupling.

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