Thalamus exhibits less sensory variability quenching than cortex
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/16166
Spiking activity exhibits a large degree of variability across identical trials, which has been shown to be significantly reduced by stimulus onset in a wide range of cortical areas. Whether similar dynamics apply to the thalamus and in particular to the pulvinar is largely unknown. Here, we examined electrophysiological recordings from two adult rhesus macaques performing a perceptual task and comparatively investigated trial-to-trial variability in higher-order thalamus (ventral and dorsal pulvinar), the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and visual cortex (area V4) prior to and following the presentation of a visual stimulus. We found spiking variability during stable fixation prior to stimulus onset to be considerably lower in both pulvinar and the LGN as compared to area V4. In contrast to the prominent variability reduction in V4 upon stimulus onset, variability in the thalamic nuclei was largely unaffected by visual stimulation. There was a small but significant variability decrease in the dorsal pulvinar, but not in the ventral portion of the pulvinar, which is closely connected to visual cortices and would thus have been expected to reflect cortical response properties. This dissociation did not stem from differences in response strength or mean firing rates and indicates fundamental differences in variability quenching between thalamus and cortex.