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Phase-locking in electrically coupled spiking neurons: the influence of intrinsic properties of neurons

Electrical coupling between groups of inhibitory interneurons appears to be ubiquitous in the cortex. Because inhibitory interneurons are thought to play a fundamental role in generating cortical oscillations, phase-locking dynamics of electrical coupled interneurons has received considerable interest. A recent experimental study showed that electrically coupled neocortical interneurons have the ability to robustly synchronize over a broad range of frequencies and an inability to phase-lock in anti-phase [1]. How electrical coupling interacts with the intrinsic properties of neurons to generate stable phase-locked states remains unclear. Using the theory of weakly coupled oscillators and phase-response curves (PRC) from both real and model interneurons, I identify some of the intrinsic properties of neurons that determine the stability of phase-locked states and describe the underlying dynamical mechanisms. In the real and model interneurons that are examined, wide spikes and shallow action potential afterhyperpolarizations promote synchronous behavior; however, this property depends critically on the shape of the PRC. I discuss the combinations of PRC shapes and membrane potential time-courses required for stable synchrony and for stable anti-phase activity. I then use these results as a framework to examine how specific ionic conductances alter stability of phase-locked states.


  1. Mancilla JG, Lewis TJ, Pinto DJ, Rinzel J, Connors BW: Firing dynamics of coupled pairs of inhibitory interneurons in neocortex. J Neurosci. 2007, 27: 2058-2073. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2715-06.2007.

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Correspondence to Timothy J Lewis.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Lewis, T.J. Phase-locking in electrically coupled spiking neurons: the influence of intrinsic properties of neurons. BMC Neurosci 8 (Suppl 2), P59 (2007).

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  • Intrinsic Property
  • Dynamical Mechanism
  • Inhibitory Interneuron
  • Electrical Coupling
  • Recent Experimental Study