Neocortical activity is stimulus- and scale-invariant

Karimipanah, Yahya; Ma, Zhengyu; Miller, Jae-eun Kang; Yuste, Rafael; Wessel, Ralf

Mounting evidence supports the hypothesis that the cortex operates near a critical state, defined as the transition point between order (large-scale activity) and disorder (small-scale activity). This criticality is manifested by power law distribution of the size and duration of spontaneous cascades of activity, which are referred as neuronal avalanches. The existence of such neuronal avalanches has been confirmed by several studies both in vitro and in vivo, among different species and across multiple spatial scales. However, despite the prevalence of scale free activity, still very little is known concerning whether and how the scale-free nature of cortical activity is altered during external stimulation. To address this question, we performed in vivo two-photon population calcium imaging of layer 2/3 neurons in primary visual cortex of behaving mice during visual stimulation and conducted statistical analyses on the inferred spike trains. Our investigation for each mouse and condition revealed power law distributed neuronal avalanches, and irregular spiking individual neurons. Importantly, both the avalanche and the spike train properties remained largely unchanged for different stimuli, while the cross-correlation structure varied with stimuli. Our results establish that microcircuits in the visual cortex operate near the critical regime, while rearranging functional connectivity in response to varying sensory inputs.


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Biological Sciences
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July 16, 2017