Variability and Correlated Noise in the Discharge of Neurons in Motor and Parietal Areas of the Primate Cortex

Journal of Neuroscience - 1998-02-01Lee D, Port NL, Kruse W, Georgopoulos AP10.1523/JNEUROSCI.18-03-01161.1998
We analyzed the magnitude and interneuronal correlation of the variability in the activity of single neurons that were recorded simultaneously using a multielectrode array in the primary motor cortex and parietal areas 2/5 in rhesus monkeys. The animals were trained to move their arms in one of eight directions as instructed by a visual target. The relationship between variability (SD) and mean of the discharge rate was described by a power function with a similar exponent (∼0.57), regardless of the cortical area or the behavioral condition. We examined whether the deviation from mean activity between target onset and the end of the movement was correlated on a trial-by-trial basis with variability in activity during the hold period before target onset. In both cortical areas, for about a quarter of the neurons, the neuronal noise of these two periods was positively correlated, whereas significant negative correlations were seldom observed. Overall, neurons with higher signal correlation (i.e., similar directional pattern) showed higher noise correlation in both cortical areas. On the other hand, when the data were divided according to the distance between the electrode tips from which the neurons were recorded, a consistent relationship between the signal and noise correlations was found only for pairs of neurons recorded through the same electrode. These results suggest that nearby neurons with similar directional tuning carry primarily redundant messages, whereas neurons in separate cortical columns perform more independent processing.