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Cumulative latency advance underlies fast visual processing in desynchronized brain state


Fast sensory processing is vital for the animal to efficiently respond to the changing environment. This is usually achieved when the animal is vigilant, as reflected by cortical desynchronization. However, the neural substrate for such fast processing remains unclear. Here, we report that neurons in rat primary visual cortex (V1) exhibited shorter response latency in the desynchronized state than in the synchronized state. In vivo whole-cell recording from the same V1 neurons undergoing the two states showed that both the resting and visually evoked conductances were higher in the desynchronized state. Such conductance increases of single V1 neurons shorten the response latency by elevating the membrane potential closer to the firing threshold and reducing the membrane time constant, but the effects only account for a small fraction of the observed latency advance. Simultaneous recordings in lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and V1 revealed that LGN neurons also exhibited latency advance, with a degree smaller than that of V1 neurons. Furthermore, latency advance in V1 increased across successive cortical layers. Thus, latency advance accumulates along various stages of the visual pathway, likely due to a global increase of membrane conductance in the desynchronized state. This cumulative effect may lead to a dramatic shortening of response latency for neurons in higher visual cortex and play a critical role in fast processing for vigilant animals.

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