A minimal mechanistic model for temporal signal processing in the lateral geniculate nucleus

Cogn Neurodyn. 2012 Jun;6(3):259-81. doi: 10.1007/s11571-012-9198-9. Epub 2012 Mar 25.


The receptive fields of cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) are shaped by their diverse set of impinging inputs: feedforward synaptic inputs stemming from retina, and feedback inputs stemming from the visual cortex and the thalamic reticular nucleus. To probe the possible roles of these feedforward and feedback inputs in shaping the temporal receptive-field structure of LGN relay cells, we here present and investigate a minimal mechanistic firing-rate model tailored to elucidate their disparate features. The model for LGN relay ON cells includes feedforward excitation and inhibition (via interneurons) from retinal ON cells and excitatory and inhibitory (via thalamic reticular nucleus cells and interneurons) feedback from cortical ON and OFF cells. From a general firing-rate model formulated in terms of Volterra integral equations, we derive a single delay differential equation with absolute delay governing the dynamics of the system. A freely available and easy-to-use GUI-based MATLAB version of this minimal mechanistic LGN circuit model is provided. We particularly investigate the LGN relay-cell impulse response and find through thorough explorations of the model's parameter space that both purely feedforward models and feedback models with feedforward excitation only, can account quantitatively for previously reported experimental results. We find, however, that the purely feedforward model predicts two impulse response measures, the time to first peak and the biphasic index (measuring the relative weight of the rebound phase) to be anticorrelated. In contrast, the models with feedback predict different correlations between these two measures. This suggests an experimental test assessing the relative importance of feedforward and feedback connections in shaping the impulse response of LGN relay cells.

Keywords: Corticothalamic; Feedback; Feedforward; Impulse response; LGN; Mechanistic; Rate model; Thalamocortical.