A network model of the barrel cortex combined with a differentiator detector reproduces features of the behavioral response to single-neuron stimulation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Feb 8;17(2):e1007831. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007831. eCollection 2021 Feb.


The stimulation of a single neuron in the rat somatosensory cortex can elicit a behavioral response. The probability of a behavioral response does not depend appreciably on the duration or intensity of a constant stimulation, whereas the response probability increases significantly upon injection of an irregular current. Biological mechanisms that can potentially suppress a constant input signal are present in the dynamics of both neurons and synapses and seem ideal candidates to explain these experimental findings. Here, we study a large network of integrate-and-fire neurons with several salient features of neuronal populations in the rat barrel cortex. The model includes cellular spike-frequency adaptation, experimentally constrained numbers and types of chemical synapses endowed with short-term plasticity, and gap junctions. Numerical simulations of this model indicate that cellular and synaptic adaptation mechanisms alone may not suffice to account for the experimental results if the local network activity is read out by an integrator. However, a circuit that approximates a differentiator can detect the single-cell stimulation with a reliability that barely depends on the length or intensity of the stimulus, but that increases when an irregular signal is used. This finding is in accordance with the experimental results obtained for the stimulation of a regularly-spiking excitatory cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Computational Biology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology

Grants and funding

DB received funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG), GRK 1589/2 (https://www.eecs.tu-berlin.de/grk_15891). DB, GD, MB, and BL received funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Bernstein Center II (https://www.bccn-berlin.de) grant no. 01GQ1001A. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.