Irregular activity and propagation of synchrony in complex, spiking neural networks

Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 11:00
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 255
Center for Brain Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Harvard University
Mean field theory for infinite sparse networks of spiking neurons shows that a balanced state of highly irregular activity arises under a variety of conditions. The state is considered to be a model for the ground state of cortical activity. In the first part, we analytically investigate its irregular dynamics in finite networks keeping track of all individual spike times and the identities of individual neurons. For delayed, purely inhibitory interactions, we show that the dynamics is not chaotic but in fact stable. Moreover, we demonstrate that after long transients the dynamics converges towards periodic orbits and that every generic periodic orbit of these dynamical systems is stable. These results indicate that chaotic and stable dynamics are equally capable of generating the irregular neuronal activity. More generally, chaos apparently is not essential for generating high irregularity of balanced activity, and we suggest that a mechanism different from chaos and stochasticity significantly contributes to irregular activity in cortical circuits. In the second part, we study the propagation of synchrony in front of a background of irregular spiking activity. We show numerically and analytically that supra-additive dendritic interactions, as recently discovered in single neuron experiments, enable the propagation of synchronous activity even in random networks. This can lead to intermittent events, characterized by strong increases of activity with high-frequency oscillations; our model predicts the shape of these events and the oscillation frequency. As an example, for the hippocampal region CA1, events with 200Hz oscillations are predicted. We argue that these dynamics provide a plausible explanation for experimentally observed sharp-wave/ripple events.