The local field potential reflects surplus spike synchrony.
While oscillations of the local field potential (LFP) are commonly attributed to the synchronization of neuronal firing rate on the same time scale, their relationship to coincident spiking in the millisecond range is unknown. Here, we present experimental evidence to reconcile the notions of synchrony at the level of spiking and at the mesoscopic scale. We demonstrate that only in time intervals of significant spike synchrony that cannot be explained on the basis of firing rates, coincident spikes are better phase locked to the LFP than predicted by the locking of the individual spikes. This effect is enhanced in periods of large LFP amplitudes. A quantitative model explains the LFP dynamics by the orchestrated spiking activity in neuronal groups that contribute the observed surplus synchrony. From the correlation analysis, we infer that neurons participate in different constellations but contribute only a fraction of their spikes to temporally precise spike configurations. This finding provides direct evidence for the hypothesized relation that precise spike synchrony constitutes a major temporally and spatially organized component of the LFP.