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Neural Computation

January 1, 2000, Vol. 12, No. 1, Pages 181-194
(doi: 10.1162/089976600300015943)
© 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Effects of Spike Timing on Winner-Take-All Competition in Model Cortical Circuits
Article PDF (190.03 KB)

Synaptic interactions in cortical circuits involve strong recurrent excitation between nearby neurons and lateral inhibition that is more widely spread. This architecture is commonly thought to promote a winner-takeall competition, in which a small fraction of neuronal responses is selected for further processing. Here I report that such a competition is remarkably sensitive to the timing of neuronal action potentials. This is shown using simulations of model neurons and synaptic connections representing a patch of cortical tissue. In the simulations, uncorrelated discharge among neuronal units results in patterns of response dominance and suppression, that is, in a winner-take-all competition. Synchronization of firing, however, prevents such competition. These results demonstrate a novel property of recurrent cortical-like circuits, suggesting that the temporal patterning of cortical activity may play an important part in selection among stimuli competing for the control of attention and motor action.