Despite its century-old use, the interpretation of local field potentials (LFPs), the low-frequency part of electrical signals recorded in the brain, is still debated. In cortex the LFP appears to mainly stem from transmembrane neuronal currents following synaptic input, and obvious questions regarding the ‘locality’ of the LFP are: What is the size of the signal-generating region, i.e., the spatial reach, around a recording contact? How far does the LFP signal extend outside a synaptically activated neuronal population? And how do the answers depend on the temporal frequency of the LFP signal? Experimental inquiries have given conflicting results, and we here pursue a modeling approach based on a well-established biophysical forward-modeling scheme incorporating detailed reconstructed neuronal morphologies in precise calculations of population LFPs including thousands of neurons. The two key factors determining the frequency dependence of LFP are the spatial decay of the single-neuron LFP contribution and the conversion of synaptic input correlations into correlations between single-neuron LFP contributions. Both factors are seen to give low-pass filtering of the LFP signal power. For uncorrelated input only the first factor is relevant, and here a modest reduction (<50%) in the spatial reach is observed for higher frequencies (>100 Hz) compared to the near-DC () value of about . Much larger frequency-dependent effects are seen when populations of pyramidal neurons receive correlated and spatially asymmetric inputs: the low-frequency () LFP power can here be an order of magnitude or more larger than at 60 Hz. Moreover, the low-frequency LFP components have larger spatial reach and extend further outside the active population than high-frequency components. Further, the spatial LFP profiles for such populations typically span the full vertical extent of the dendrites of neurons in the population. Our numerical findings are backed up by an intuitive simplified model for the generation of population LFP.
The first recording of electrical potential from brain activity was reported already in 1875, but still the interpretation of the signal is debated. To take full advantage of the new generation of microelectrodes with hundreds or even thousands of electrode contacts, an accurate quantitative link between what is measured and the underlying neural circuit activity is needed. Here we address the question of how the observed frequency dependence of recorded local field potentials (LFPs) should be interpreted. By use of a well-established biophysical modeling scheme, combined with detailed reconstructed neuronal morphologies, we find that correlations in the synaptic inputs onto a population of pyramidal cells may significantly boost the low-frequency components and affect the spatial profile of the generated LFP. We further find that these low-frequency components may be less ‘local’ than the high-frequency LFP components in the sense that (1) the size of signal-generation region of the LFP recorded at an electrode is larger and (2) the LFP generated by a synaptically activated population spreads further outside the population edge due to volume conduction.