Perceptual judgments via sensory-motor interaction assisted by cortical GABA

J Comput Neurosci. 2018 Apr;44(2):233-251. doi: 10.1007/s10827-018-0677-9. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Recurrent input to sensory cortex, via long-range reciprocal projections between motor and sensory cortices, is essential for accurate perceptual judgments. GABA levels in sensory cortices correlate with perceptual performance. We simulated a neuron-astrocyte network model to investigate how top-down, feedback signaling from a motor network (Nmot) to a sensory network (Nsen) affects perceptual judgments in association with ambient (extracellular) GABA levels. In the Nsen, astrocytic transporters modulated ambient GABA levels around pyramidal cells. A simple perceptual task was implemented: detection of a feature stimulus presented to the Nsen. The Nmot showed distinct perceptual behaviors: hit, fault, and miss. A hit is a correct response to the stimulus, a fault is a wrong response to the stimulus, and a miss is no response to the stimulus. In hits, the feedback signaling increased the gain of Nsen pyramidal cells and accelerated the reaction speed of Nmot pyramidal cells to the stimulus. Without feedback signaling, the Nsen but not Nmot responded to the stimulus, resulting in a miss. With too strong feedback signaling, the Nmot resulted in a fault, namely, stimulus-insensitive but not stimulus-sensitive pyramidal cells wrongly responded. Balancing the feedforward and feedback signaling formed a coherent, ongoing-spontaneous neuronal state, by which the highest hit rate was achieved. A transient reduction in local ambient GABA levels, triggered by the stimulus, contributed to accelerating the reaction speed under noisy environmental conditions. Adjusting the basal ambient GABA level ensured high hit rates. We suggest that motor cortex feedback may accelerate reaction speed to sensory stimulation by promoting coherency in ongoing-spontaneous neuronal activity between sensory and motor cortices, thereby achieving prompt perceptual judgments. Spatiotemporal modulation of ambient GABA levels, possibly by astrocytic transporters, assists in making reliable perceptual judgments.

Keywords: Cortical GABA; Motor cortex feedback; Subjective sensory perception; Subthreshold membrane potential resonance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid