Visually Driven Neuropil Activity and Information Encoding in Mouse Primary Visual Cortex

Front Neural Circuits. 2017 Jul 21:11:50. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2017.00050. eCollection 2017.


Cortical neuropil modulations recorded by calcium imaging reflect the activity of large aggregates of axo-dendritic processes and synaptic compartments from a large number of neurons. The organization of this activity impacts neuronal firing but is not well understood. Here we used in vivo 2-photon imaging with Oregon Green Bapta (OGB) and GCaMP6s to study neuropil visual responses to moving gratings in layer 2/3 of mouse area V1. We found neuropil responses to be strongly modulated and more reliable than neighboring somatic activity. Furthermore, stimulus independent modulations in neuropil activity, i.e., noise correlations, were highly coherent across the cortical surface, up to distances of at least 200 μm. Pairwise neuropil-to-neuropil-patch noise correlation strength was much higher than cell-to-cell noise correlation strength and depended strongly on brain state, decreasing in quiet wakefulness relative to light anesthesia. The profile of neuropil noise correlation strength decreased gently with distance, dropping by ~11% at a distance of 200 μm. This was comparatively slower than the profile of cell-to-cell noise correlations, which dropped by ~23% at 200 μm. Interestingly, in spite of the "salt & pepper" organization of orientation and direction encoding across mouse V1 neurons, populations of neuropil patches, even of moderately large size (radius ~100 μm), showed high accuracy for discriminating perpendicularly moving gratings. This was commensurate to the accuracy of corresponding cell populations. The dynamic, stimulus dependent, nature of neuropil activity further underscores the need to carefully separate neuropil from cell soma activity in contemporary imaging studies.

Keywords: information encoding; neuropil; population codes; visual cortex; visual system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuropil / cytology
  • Neuropil / drug effects
  • Neuropil / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / drug effects
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging
  • Wakefulness / drug effects
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Calcium