Recent experimental studies show cortical circuit responses to external stimuli display varied dynamical properties. These include stimulus strength-dependent population response patterns, a shift from synchronous to asynchronous states and a decline in neural variability. To elucidate the mechanisms underlying these response properties and explore how they are mechanistically related, we develop a neural circuit model that incorporates two essential features widely observed in the cerebral cortex. The first feature is a balance between excitatory and inhibitory inputs to individual neurons; the second feature is distance-dependent connectivity. We show that applying a weak external stimulus to the model evokes a wave pattern propagating along lateral connections, but a strong external stimulus triggers a localized pattern; these stimulus strength-dependent population response patterns are quantitatively comparable with those measured in experimental studies. We identify network mechanisms underlying this population response, and demonstrate that the dynamics of population-level response patterns can explain a range of prominent features in neural responses, including changes to the dynamics of neurons' membrane potentials and synaptic inputs that characterize the shift of cortical states, and the stimulus-evoked decline in neuron response variability. Our study provides a unified population activity pattern-based view of diverse cortical response properties, thus shedding new insights into cortical processing.
Keywords: asynchronous state; balanced excitation and inhibition; cortical circuits; neural response properties; neural variability.
© 2018 The Authors.