Simulation of avalanches in mouse primary motor cortex (M1)

TitleSimulation of avalanches in mouse primary motor cortex (M1)
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsDoherty, D., Sivagnanam S., Dura-Bernal S., & Lytton W. W.
Conference NameComputational Neuroscience Meeting (CNS 18')
Keywords2018, BMC, BMC Neuroscience 2018, CNS

Avalanches have been suggested to reflect a scale-free organization of cortex. It is hypothesized that such an organization may relate to a particularly effective form of activity propagation which is balanced between failure (activity fails to reach a target area) and overactivation (activity reaches a target area via many routes leading to wasted activity or epileptiform activity patterns). We electrically stimulated a computer model of mouse primary motor cortex (M1) and analyzed signal flow over space and time. Initially we stimulated a 300 $μ$m $\times$ 600 $μ$m slice of M1 using a 10 $μ$m $\times$ 10 $μ$m 0.5 nA stimulus across all 6 layers of cortex (1350 $μ$m) for 100 ms. Waves of activity swept across the cortex for a half a second after the end of the electrical stimulus. We extracted avalanches from the data by counting events, spikes, occurring within 1 ms frames. An avalanche of length N was defined as N consecutively active frames, preceded by a blank frame and followed by a blank frame. A graph of the cortical slice above, with the 0.5 nA stimulus, displayed a bimodal distribution. We observed 18 avalanches in total with 4 single neuron avalanches and all the other avalanches containing more than 1000 neurons each. The largest avalanche contained 7000 neurons. Studies have generally shown avalanche activity to show a linear log–log graph starting highest from small avalanches and decreasing as the avalanches get larger. We looked at responses of M1 to lower amplitude stimuli between 0.05 and 0.5 nA to see if they may fit a classic inverse power-law curve. We graphed M1 response to a 500 ms electric stimulus at various amplitudes and found particularly clear inverse power-law responses to stimuli between 0.16 and 0.18 nA. In the 300 $μ$m $\times$ 300 $μ$m slice of M1 for 500 ms using 0.16nA we observed 90 avalanches from as small as a single neuron action potential in isolation to 13 neurons spiking. A large proportion were SOM neurons participating in the avalanches but they also included IT neurons at this level of stimulation. Neurons from every layer of cortex participated in avalanches except for layer 4. At stimulus onset neurons within an avalanche spiked at the same time. Spike onset amongst neurons within an avalanche became more heterogeneous as time progressed, especially after about 400 ms. For example, a 5 neuron avalanche began 431 ms after stimulus onset with a SOM6 neuron spike (x:84.2 $μ$m, z:98.9 $μ$m). Eight-tenths of a millisecond later it was followed with an IT5A spike (x:92.8 $μ$m, z:85.7 $μ$m). Next, after 0.65 ms, a different SOM6 neuron spiked (x:79.1 $μ$m, z:83.2 $μ$m) and finally the avalanche ended with yet another SOM6 spike (x:81.0 $μ$m, z:64.3 $μ$m). We observed similar results using a 0.18nA stimulus that elicited 110 avalanches from single neuron avalanches to avalanches that included 12 neurons. The simulation of avalanches in cortex offers advantages for analysis that are not readily done experimentally in in vivo or in vitro. We have been able to record from every neuron in our M1 slice and follow activity from cell to cell. In the future we will analyze how avalanches take place within and between layers.