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Front Neural Circuits. 2013 May 3;7:85. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2013.00085. eCollection 2013.

Neural dynamics and information representation in microcircuits of motor cortex.

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  • 1Laboratory for Neural Circuit Theory, RIKEN Brain Science Institute Wako, Saitama, Japan.


The brain has to analyze and respond to external events that can change rapidly from time to time, suggesting that information processing by the brain may be essentially dynamic rather than static. The dynamical features of neural computation are of significant importance in motor cortex that governs the process of movement generation and learning. In this paper, we discuss these features based primarily on our recent findings on neural dynamics and information coding in the microcircuit of rat motor cortex. In fact, cortical neurons show a variety of dynamical behavior from rhythmic activity in various frequency bands to highly irregular spike firing. Of particular interest are the similarity and dissimilarity of the neuronal response properties in different layers of motor cortex. By conducting electrophysiological recordings in slice preparation, we report the phase response curves (PRCs) of neurons in different cortical layers to demonstrate their layer-dependent synchronization properties. We then study how motor cortex recruits task-related neurons in different layers for voluntary arm movements by simultaneous juxtacellular and multiunit recordings from behaving rats. The results suggest an interesting difference in the spectrum of functional activity between the superficial and deep layers. Furthermore, the task-related activities recorded from various layers exhibited power law distributions of inter-spike intervals (ISIs), in contrast to a general belief that ISIs obey Poisson or Gamma distributions in cortical neurons. We present a theoretical argument that this power law of in vivo neurons may represent the maximization of the entropy of firing rate with limited energy consumption of spike generation. Though further studies are required to fully clarify the functional implications of this coding principle, it may shed new light on information representations by neurons and circuits in motor cortex.


cortical layer; gamma oscillation; irregular firing; juxtacellular; local circuit; multiunit; neural code; synchronization

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