Extracting functionally feedforward networks from a population of spiking neurons

Title: Extracting functionally feedforward networks from a population of spiking neurons
Authors: Vincent, Kathleen
Tauskela, Joseph S
Thivierge, Jean-Philippe
Date: 2012
Abstract: Neuronal avalanches are a ubiquitous form of activity characterized by spontaneous bursts whose size distribution follows a power-law. Recent theoretical models have replicated power-law avalanches by assuming the presence of functionally feedforward connections (FFCs) in the underlying dynamics of the system. Accordingly, avalanches are generated by a feedforward chain of activation that persists despite being embedded in a larger, massively recurrent circuit. However, it is unclear to what extent networks of living neurons that exhibit power-law avalanches rely on FFCs. Here, we employed a computational approach to reconstruct the functional connectivity of cultured cortical neurons plated on multielectrode arrays (MEAs) and investigated whether pharmacologically induced alterations in avalanche dynamics are accompanied by changes in FFCs. This approach begins by extracting a functional network of directed links between pairs of neurons, and then evaluates the strength of FFCs using Schur decomposition. In a first step, we examined the ability of this approach to extract FFCs from simulated spiking neurons. The strength of FFCs obtained in strictly feedforward networks diminished monotonically as links were gradually rewired at random. Next, we estimated the FFCs of spontaneously active cortical neuron cultures in the presence of either a control medium, a GABAA receptor antagonist (PTX), or an AMPA receptor antagonist combined with an NMDA receptor antagonist (APV/DNQX). The distribution of avalanche sizes in these cultures was modulated by this pharmacology, with a shallower power-law under PTX (due to the prominence of larger avalanches) and a steeper power-law under APV/DNQX (due to avalanches recruiting fewer neurons) relative to control cultures. The strength of FFCs increased in networks after application of PTX, consistent with an amplification of feedforward activity during avalanches. Conversely, FFCs decreased after application of APV/DNQX, consistent with fading feedforward activation. The observed alterations in FFCs provide experimental support for recent theoretical work linking power-law avalanches to the feedforward organization of functional connections in local neuronal circuits.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/23967
DOI: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00086
CollectionLibre accès uOttawa - Publications // uOttawa Open Access - Publications
Psychologie // Psychology - Publications