Representational drift in the mouse visual cortex

Curr Biol. 2021 Oct 11;31(19):4327-4339.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.07.062. Epub 2021 Aug 24.


Recent studies have shown that neuronal representations gradually change over time despite no changes in the stimulus, environment, or behavior. However, such representational drift has been assumed to be a property of high-level brain structures, whereas earlier circuits, such as sensory cortices, have been assumed to stably encode information over time. Here, we analyzed large-scale optical and electrophysiological recordings from six visual cortical areas in behaving mice that were repeatedly presented with the same natural movies. Contrary to the prevailing notion, we found representational drift over timescales spanning minutes to days across multiple visual areas, cortical layers, and cell types. Notably, neural-code stability did not reflect the hierarchy of information flow across areas. Although individual neurons showed time-dependent changes in their coding properties, the structure of the relationships between population activity patterns remained stable and stereotypic. Such population-level organization may underlie stable visual perception despite continuous changes in neuronal responses.

Keywords: calcium imaging; manifold; neuropixels; representational drift; tuning curve; visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Visual Cortex* / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology