Synchrony in sensation.
How neurons encode information has been a hotly debated issue. Ultimately, any code must be relevant to the senders, receivers, and connections between them. This review focuses on the transmission of sensory information through the circuit linking thalamus and cortex, two distant brain regions. Strong feedforward inhibition in the thalamocortical circuit renders cortex highly sensitive to the thalamic synchrony evoked by a sensory stimulus. Neuromodulators and feedback connections may modulate the temporal sensitivity of such circuits and gate the propagation of synchrony into other layers and cortical areas. The prevalence of strong feedforward inhibitory circuits throughout the central nervous system suggests that synchrony codes and timing-sensitive circuits may be widespread, occurring well beyond sensory thalamus and cortex.