Causal oscillations in the visual thalamo-cortical network in sustained attention in ferrets

Curr Biol. 2024 Feb 26;34(4):727-739.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.12.067. Epub 2024 Jan 22.


Sustained visual attention allows us to process and react to unpredictable, behaviorally relevant sensory input. Sustained attention engages communication between the higher-order visual thalamus and its connected cortical regions. However, it remains unclear whether there is a causal relationship between oscillatory circuit dynamics and attentional behavior in these thalamo-cortical circuits. By using rhythmic optogenetic stimulation in the ferret, we provide causal evidence that higher-order visual thalamus coordinates thalamo-cortical and cortico-cortical functional connectivity during sustained attention via spike-field phase locking. Increasing theta but not alpha power in the thalamus improved accuracy and reduced omission rates in a sustained attention task. Further, the enhancement of effective connectivity by stimulation was correlated with improved behavioral performance. Our work demonstrates a potential circuit-level causal mechanism for how the higher-order visual thalamus modulates cortical communication through rhythmic synchronization during sustained attention.

Keywords: Oscillations; animal behavior; causal manipulation; frequency specific; functional connectivity; optogenetic stimulation; posterior visual network; sustained attention; thalamo-cortical network.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ferrets*
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Visual Cortex* / physiology