Information processing in the brain may rely on temporal correlations in spike activity between neurons. Within the olfactory bulb, correlated spiking in output mitral cells could affect the odor code by either binding or amplifying signals from individual odorant receptors. We examined the timing of spike trains in mitral cells of rat olfactory bulb slices. Depolarization of mitral cell pairs elicited spikes that were correlated on a rapid timescale (≤10 ms) for cells whose primary dendrites projected to the same glomerulus. Correlated spiking was driven by a novel mechanism that depended on electrical coupling at mitral cell primary dendrites; the specific synchronizing signal was a coupled depolarization (∼20 ms) that was mediated by dendritic AMPA autoreceptors. We suggest that glomerulus-specific correlated spiking in mitral cells helps to preserve the fidelity of odor signals that are delivered to the olfactory cortex.
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