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- Detecting multineuronal temporal patterns in parallel spike trains (2012)
- We present a non-parametric and computationally efficient method that detects spatiotemporal firing patterns and pattern sequences in parallel spike trains and tests whether the observed numbers of repeating patterns and sequences on a given timescale are significantly different from those expected by chance. The method is generally applicable and uncovers coordinated activity with arbitrary precision by comparing it to appropriate surrogate data. The analysis of coherent patterns of spatially and temporally distributed spiking activity on various timescales enables the immediate tracking of diverse qualities of coordinated firing related to neuronal state changes and information processing. We apply the method to simulated data and multineuronal recordings from rat visual cortex and show that it reliably discriminates between data sets with random pattern occurrences and with additional exactly repeating spatiotemporal patterns and pattern sequences. Multineuronal cortical spiking activity appears to be precisely coordinated and exhibits a sequential organization beyond the cell assembly concept.
- Meditation increases the depth of information processing (2012)
- During meditation, practitioners are required to center their attention on a specific object for extended periods of time. When their thoughts get diverted, they learn to quickly disengage from the distracter. We hypothesized that learning to respond to the dual demand of engaging attention on specific objects and disengaging quickly from distracters enhances the efficiency by which meditation practitioners can allocate attention. We tested this hypothesis in a global-to-local task while measuring electroencephalographic activity from a group of eight highly trained Buddhist monks and nuns and a group of eight age and education matched controls with no previous meditation experience. Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level. We expected to find a reduced global precedence effect in meditation practitioners but not in controls, reflecting that meditators can more quickly disengage their attention from the dominant global level. Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction. To investigate the underlying changes in brain activity and their time course, we analyzed event-related potentials. Meditators showed an enhanced ability to select the respective target level, as reflected by enhanced processing of target level information. In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3. Thus, meditators seem to display enhanced depth of processing. In addition, meditation altered the uptake of information such that meditators selected target level information earlier in the processing sequence than controls. In a longitudinal experiment, we could replicate the behavioral effects, suggesting that meditation modulates attention already after a 4-day meditation retreat. Together, these results suggest that practicing meditation enhances the speed with which attention can be allocated and relocated, thus increasing the depth of information processing and reducing response latency.
- Auditory motion capturing ambiguous visual motion (2012)
- In this study, it is demonstrated that moving sounds have an effect on the direction in which one sees visual stimuli move. During the main experiment sounds were presented consecutively at four speaker locations inducing left or rightward auditory apparent motion. On the path of auditory apparent motion, visual apparent motion stimuli were presented with a high degree of directional ambiguity. The main outcome of this experiment is that our participants perceived visual apparent motion stimuli that were ambiguous (equally likely to be perceived as moving left or rightward) more often as moving in the same direction than in the opposite direction of auditory apparent motion. During the control experiment we replicated this finding and found no effect of sound motion direction on eye movements. This indicates that auditory motion can capture our visual motion percept when visual motion direction is insufficiently determinate without affecting eye movements.
- 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.
- Callosal connections of primary visual cortex predict the spatial spreading of binocular rivalry across the visual hemifields (2011)
- In binocular rivalry, presentation of different images to the separate eyes leads to conscious perception alternating between the two possible interpretations every few seconds. During perceptual transitions, a stimulus emerging into dominance can spread in a wave-like manner across the visual field. These traveling waves of rivalry dominance have been successfully related to the cortical magnification properties and functional activity of early visual areas, including the primary visual cortex (V1). Curiously however, these traveling waves undergo a delay when passing from one hemifield to another. In the current study, we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to investigate whether the strength of interhemispheric connections between the left and right visual cortex might be related to the delay of traveling waves across hemifields. We measured the delay in traveling wave times (ΔTWT) in 19 participants and repeated this test 6 weeks later to evaluate the reliability of our behavioral measures. We found large interindividual variability but also good test–retest reliability for individual measures of ΔTWT. Using DTI in connection with fiber tractography, we identified parts of the corpus callosum connecting functionally defined visual areas V1–V3. We found that individual differences in ΔTWT was reliably predicted by the diffusion properties of transcallosal fibers connecting left and right V1, but observed no such effect for neighboring transcallosal visual fibers connecting V2 and V3. Our results demonstrate that the anatomical characteristics of topographically specific transcallosal connections predict the individual delay of interhemispheric traveling waves, providing further evidence that V1 is an important site for neural processes underlying binocular rivalry.
- Distributed processing and temporal codes in neuronal networks (2009)
- The cerebral cortex presents itself as a distributed dynamical system with the characteristics of a small world network. The neuronal correlates of cognitive and executive processes often appear to consist of the coordinated activity of large assemblies of widely distributed neurons. These features require mechanisms for the selective routing of signals across densely interconnected networks, the flexible and context dependent binding of neuronal groups into functionally coherent assemblies and the task and attention dependent integration of subsystems. In order to implement these mechanisms, it is proposed that neuronal responses should convey two orthogonal messages in parallel. They should indicate (1) the presence of the feature to which they are tuned and (2) with which other neurons (specific target cells or members of a coherent assembly) they are communicating. The first message is encoded in the discharge frequency of the neurons (rate code) and it is proposed that the second message is contained in the precise timing relationships between individual spikes of distributed neurons (temporal code). It is further proposed that these precise timing relations are established either by the timing of external events (stimulus locking) or by internal timing mechanisms. The latter are assumed to consist of an oscillatory modulation of neuronal responses in different frequency bands that cover a broad frequency range from <2 Hz (delta) to >40 Hz (gamma) and ripples. These oscillations limit the communication of cells to short temporal windows whereby the duration of these windows decreases with oscillation frequency. Thus, by varying the phase relationship between oscillating groups, networks of functionally cooperating neurons can be flexibly configurated within hard wired networks. Moreover, by synchronizing the spikes emitted by neuronal populations, the saliency of their responses can be enhanced due to the coincidence sensitivity of receiving neurons in very much the same way as can be achieved by increasing the discharge rate. Experimental evidence will be reviewed in support of the coexistence of rate and temporal codes. Evidence will also be provided that disturbances of temporal coding mechanisms are likely to be one of the pathophysiological mechanisms in schizophrenia.
- Saccade-related modulations of neuronal excitability support synchrony of visually elicited spikes (2011)
- During natural vision, primates perform frequent saccadic eye movements, allowing only a narrow time window for processing the visual information at each location. Individual neurons may contribute only with a few spikes to the visual processing during each fixation, suggesting precise spike timing as a relevant mechanism for information processing. We recently found in V1 of monkeys freely viewing natural images, that fixation-related spike synchronization occurs at the early phase of the rate response after fixation-onset, suggesting a specific role of the first response spikes in V1. Here, we show that there are strong local field potential (LFP) modulations locked to the onset of saccades, which continue into the successive fixation periods. Visually induced spikes, in particular the first spikes after the onset of a fixation, are locked to a specific epoch of the LFP modulation. We suggest that the modulation of neural excitability, which is reflected by the saccade-related LFP changes, serves as a corollary signal enabling precise timing of spikes in V1 and thereby providing a mechanism for spike synchronization.
- 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.
- Membrane resonance enables stable and robust gamma oscillations (2012)
- Neuronal mechanisms underlying beta/gamma oscillations (20-80 Hz) are not completely understood. Here, we show that in vivo beta/gamma oscillations in the cat visual cortex sometimes exhibit remarkably stable frequency even when inputs fluctuate dramatically. Enhanced frequency stability is associated with stronger oscillations measured in individual units and larger power in the local field potential. Simulations of neuronal circuitry demonstrate that membrane properties of inhibitory interneurons strongly determine the characteristics of emergent oscillations. Exploration of networks containing either integrator or resonator inhibitory interneurons revealed that: (i) Resonance, as opposed to integration, promotes robust oscillations with large power and stable frequency via a mechanism called RING (Resonance INduced Gamma); resonance favors synchronization by reducing phase delays between interneurons and imposes bounds on oscillation cycle duration; (ii) Stability of frequency and robustness of the oscillation also depend on the relative timing of excitatory and inhibitory volleys within the oscillation cycle; (iii) RING can reproduce characteristics of both Pyramidal INterneuron Gamma (PING) and INterneuron Gamma (ING), transcending such classifications; (iv) In RING, robust gamma oscillations are promoted by slow but are impaired by fast inputs. Results suggest that interneuronal membrane resonance can be an important ingredient for generation of robust gamma oscillations having stable frequency.
- Untangling perceptual memory: hysteresis and adaptation map into separate cortical networks (2012)
- Perception is an active inferential process in which prior knowledge is combined with sensory input, the result of which determines the contents of awareness. Accordingly, previous experience is known to help the brain “decide” what to perceive. However, a critical aspect that has not been addressed is that previous experience can exert 2 opposing effects on perception: An attractive effect, sensitizing the brain to perceive the same again (hysteresis), or a repulsive effect, making it more likely to perceive something else (adaptation). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging and modeling to elucidate how the brain entertains these 2 opposing processes, and what determines the direction of such experience-dependent perceptual effects. We found that although affecting our perception concurrently, hysteresis and adaptation map into distinct cortical networks: a widespread network of higher-order visual and fronto-parietal areas was involved in perceptual stabilization, while adaptation was confined to early visual areas. This areal and hierarchical segregation may explain how the brain maintains the balance between exploiting redundancies and staying sensitive to new information. We provide a Bayesian model that accounts for the coexistence of hysteresis and adaptation by separating their causes into 2 distinct terms: Hysteresis alters the prior, whereas adaptation changes the sensory evidence (the likelihood function).