As the technology for simultaneously recording from many brain locations becomes more available, more and more laboratories are measuring the cross-correlation between single-neuron spike trains, and between composite spike trains derived from several undiscriminated cells recorded on a single electrode (multiunit clusters). The relationship between single-unit correlations and multiunit cluster correlations has not yet been fully explored.
We calculated the normalized cross-correlation (NCC) between single unit spike trains and between small clusters of units recorded in the rat somatosensory cortex. The NCC between small clusters of units was larger than the NCC between single units. To understand this result, we investigated the scaling of the NCC with the number of units in a cluster.
Multiunit cross-correlation can be a more sensitive detector of neuronal relationship than single-unit cross-correlation. However, changes in multiunit cross-correlation are difficult to interpret uniquely because they depend on the number of cells recorded on each electrode and because they can arise from changes in the correlation between cells recorded on a single electrode or from changes in the correlation between cells recorded on two electrodes.