Spike timing reliability of neuronal responses depends on the frequency content of the input. We investigate how intrinsic properties of cortical neurons affect spike timing reliability in response to rhythmic inputs of suprathreshold mean. Analyzing reliability of conductance-based cortical model neurons on the basis of a correlation measure, we show two aspects of how ionic conductances influence spike timing reliability. First, they set the preferred frequency for spike timing reliability, which in accordance with the resonance effect of spike timing reliability is well approximated by the firing rate of a neuron in response to the DC component in the input. We demonstrate that a slow potassium current can modulate the spike timing frequency preference over a broad range of frequencies. This result is confirmed experimentally by dynamic-clamp recordings from rat prefrontal cortical neurons in vitro. Second, we provide evidence that ionic conductances also influence spike timing beyond changes in preferred frequency. Cells with the same DC firing rate exhibit more reliable spike timing at the preferred frequency and its harmonics if the slow potassium current is larger and its kinetics are faster, whereas a larger persistent sodium current impairs reliability. We predict that potassium channels are an efficient target for neuromodulators that can tune spike timing reliability to a given rhythmic input.
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