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- Context Matters: The Illusive Simplicity of Macaque V1 Receptive Fields (2012)
- Even in V1, where neurons have well characterized classical receptive fields (CRFs), it has been difficult to deduce which features of natural scenes stimuli they actually respond to. Forward models based upon CRF stimuli have had limited success in predicting the response of V1 neurons to natural scenes. As natural scenes exhibit complex spatial and temporal correlations, this could be due to surround effects that modulate the sensitivity of the CRF. Here, instead of attempting a forward model, we quantify the importance of the natural scenes surround for awake macaque monkeys by modeling it non-parametrically. We also quantify the influence of two forms of trial to trial variability. The first is related to the neuron’s own spike history. The second is related to ongoing mean field population activity reflected by the local field potential (LFP). We find that the surround produces strong temporal modulations in the firing rate that can be both suppressive and facilitative. Further, the LFP is found to induce a precise timing in spikes, which tend to be temporally localized on sharp LFP transients in the gamma frequency range. Using the pseudo R2 as a measure of model fit, we find that during natural scene viewing the CRF dominates, accounting for 60% of the fit, but that taken collectively the surround, spike history and LFP are almost as important, accounting for 40%. However, overall only a small proportion of V1 spiking statistics could be explained (R2~5%), even when the full stimulus, spike history and LFP were taken into account. This suggests that under natural scene conditions, the dominant influence on V1 neurons is not the stimulus, nor the mean field dynamics of the LFP, but the complex, incoherent dynamics of the network in which neurons are embedded.

- Extraction of network topology from multi-electrode recordings: is there a small-world effect? (2011)
- The simultaneous recording of the activity of many neurons poses challenges for multivariate data analysis. Here, we propose a general scheme of reconstruction of the functional network from spike train recordings. Effective, causal interactions are estimated by fitting generalized linear models on the neural responses, incorporating effects of the neurons’ self-history, of input from other neurons in the recorded network and of modulation by an external stimulus. The coupling terms arising from synaptic input can be transformed by thresholding into a binary connectivity matrix which is directed. Each link between two neurons represents a causal influence from one neuron to the other, given the observation of all other neurons from the population. The resulting graph is analyzed with respect to small-world and scale-free properties using quantitative measures for directed networks. Such graph-theoretic analyses have been performed on many complex dynamic networks, including the connectivity structure between different brain areas. Only few studies have attempted to look at the structure of cortical neural networks on the level of individual neurons. Here, using multi-electrode recordings from the visual system of the awake monkey, we find that cortical networks lack scale-free behavior, but show a small, but significant small-world structure. Assuming a simple distance-dependent probabilistic wiring between neurons, we find that this connectivity structure can account for all of the networks’ observed small-world-ness. Moreover, for multi-electrode recordings the sampling of neurons is not uniform across the population. We show that the small-world-ness obtained by such a localized sub-sampling overestimates the strength of the true small-world structure of the network. This bias is likely to be present in all previous experiments based on multi-electrode recordings.

- A comparison of spike time prediction and receptive field mapping with point process generalized linear models, Wiener-Voltera kernels, and spike-triggered averaging methods (2009)
- Poster presentation: Characterizing neuronal encoding is essential for understanding information processing in the brain. Three methods are commonly used to characterize the relationship between neural spiking activity and the features of putative stimuli. These methods include: Wiener-Volterra kernel methods (WVK), the spike-triggered average (STA), and more recently, the point process generalized linear model (GLM). We compared the performance of these three approaches in estimating receptive field properties and orientation tuning of 251 V1 neurons recorded from 2 monkeys during a fixation period in response to a moving bar. The GLM consisted of two formulations of the conditional intensity function for a point process characterization of the spiking activity: one with a stimulus only component and one with the stimulus and spike history. We fit the GLMs by maximum likelihood using GLMfit in Matlab. Goodness-of-fit was assessed using cross-validation with Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) tests based on the time-rescaling theorem to evaluate the accuracy with which each model predicts the spiking activity of individual neurons and for each movement direction (4016 models in total, for 251 neurons and 16 different directions). The GLMs that considered spike history of up to 35 ms, accurately predicted neuronal spiking activity (95% confidence intervals for KS test) with a performance of 97.0% (3895/4016) for the training data, and 96.5% (3876/4016) for the test data. If spike history was not considered, performance dropped to 73,1% in the training and 71.3% in the testing data. In contrast, the WVF and the STA predicted spiking accurately for 24.2% and 44.5% of the test data examples respectively. The receptive field size estimates obtained from the GLM (with and without history), WVF and STA were comparable. Relative to the GLM orientation tuning was underestimated on average by a factor of 0.45 by the WVF and the STA. The main reason for using the STA and WVF approaches is their apparent simplicity. However, our analyses suggest that more accurate spike prediction as well as more credible estimates of receptive field size and orientation tuning can be computed easily using GLMs implemented in Matlab with standard functions such as GLMfit.

- Neural synchrony in cortical networks: history, concept and current status (2009)
- Following the discovery of context-dependent synchronization of oscillatory neuronal responses in the visual system, the role of neural synchrony in cortical networks has been expanded to provide a general mechanism for the coordination of distributed neural activity patterns. In the current paper, we present an update of the status of this hypothesis through summarizing recent results from our laboratory that suggest important new insights regarding the mechanisms, function and relevance of this phenomenon. In the first part, we present recent results derived from animal experiments and mathematical simulations that provide novel explanations and mechanisms for zero and nero-zero phase lag synchronization. In the second part, we shall discuss the role of neural synchrony for expectancy during perceptual organization and its role in conscious experience. This will be followed by evidence that indicates that in addition to supporting conscious cognition, neural synchrony is abnormal in major brain disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. We conclude this paper with suggestions for further research as well as with critical issues that need to be addressed in future studies.