The Influence of Mexican Hat Recurrent Connectivity on Noise Correlations and Stimulus Encoding
Cortical neurons in vivo fire quite irregularly. Previous studies about the origin of such irregular neural dynamics have given rise to two major models: a balanced excitation and inhibition model, and a model of highly synchronized synaptic inputs. To elucidate the network mechanisms underlying synchronized synaptic inputs and account for irregular neural dynamics, we investigate a spatially extended, conductance-based spiking neural network model. We show that propagating wave patterns with complex dynamics emerge from the network model. These waves sweep past neurons, to which they provide highly synchronized synaptic inputs. On the other hand, these patterns only emerge from the network with balanced excitation and inhibition; our model therefore reconciles the two major models of irregular neural dynamics. We further demonstrate that the collective dynamics of propagating wave patterns provides a mechanistic explanation for a range of irregular neural dynamics, including the variability of spike timing, slow firing rate fluctuations, and correlated membrane potential fluctuations. In addition, in our model, the distributions of synaptic conductance and membrane potential are non-Gaussian, consistent with recent experimental data obtained using whole-cell recordings. Our work therefore relates the propagating waves that have been widely observed in the brain to irregular neural dynamics. These results demonstrate that neural firing activity, although appearing highly disordered at the single-neuron level, can form dynamical coherent structures, such as propagating waves at the population level.