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Distinct synaptic plasticity mechanisms determine the diversity of cortical responses during behavior

Date: Friday, January 15, 2021 15:00 - 16:00
Speaker: Michele Insanally (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)
Location: Online
Host: Andrew Saxe
Contact: IST Austria / University of Oxford

Spike trains recorded from the cortex of behaving animals can be complex, highly variable from trial to trial, and therefore challenging to interpret. A fraction of cells exhibit trial-averaged responses with obvious task-related features such as pure tone frequency tuning in auditory cortex. However, a substantial number of cells (including cells in primary sensory cortex) do not appear to fire in a task-related manner and are often neglected from analysis. We recently used a novel single-trial, spike-timing-based analysis to show that both classically responsive and non-classically responsive cortical neurons contain significant information about sensory stimuli and behavioral decisions suggesting that non-classically responsive cells may play an underappreciated role in perception and behavior. We now expand this investigation to explore the synaptic origins and potential contribution of these cells to network function. To do so, we trained a novel spiking recurrent neural network model that incorporates spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) mechanisms to perform the same task as behaving animals. By leveraging excitatory and inhibitory plasticity rules this model reproduces neurons with response profiles that are consistent with previously published experimental data, including classically responsive and non-classically responsive neurons. We found that both classically responsive and non-classically responsive neurons encode behavioral variables in their spike times as seen in vivo. Interestingly, plasticity in excitatory-to-excitatory synapses increased the proportion of non-classically responsive neurons and may play a significant role in determining response profiles. Finally, our model also makes predictions about the synaptic origins of classically and non-classically responsive neurons which we can compare to in vivo whole-cell recordings taken from the auditory cortex of behaving animals. This approach successfully recapitulates heterogeneous response profiles measured from behaving animals and provides a powerful lens for exploring large-scale neuronal dynamics and the plasticity rules that shape them.

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