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Front Comput Neurosci. 2013 Nov 7;7:156. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2013.00156. eCollection 2013.

Simultaneous stability and sensitivity in model cortical networks is achieved through anti-correlations between the in- and out-degree of connectivity.

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  • 1Department of Neuroinformatics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Nijmegen Nijmegen, Netherlands.


Neuronal networks in rodent barrel cortex are characterized by stable low baseline firing rates. However, they are sensitive to the action potentials of single neurons as suggested by recent single-cell stimulation experiments that reported quantifiable behavioral responses in response to short spike trains elicited in single neurons. Hence, these networks are stable against internally generated fluctuations in firing rate but at the same time remain sensitive to similarly-sized externally induced perturbations. We investigated stability and sensitivity in a simple recurrent network of stochastic binary neurons and determined numerically the effects of correlation between the number of afferent ("in-degree") and efferent ("out-degree") connections in neurons. The key advance reported in this work is that anti-correlation between in-/out-degree distributions increased the stability of the network in comparison to networks with no correlation or positive correlations, while being able to achieve the same level of sensitivity. The experimental characterization of degree distributions is difficult because all pre-synaptic and post-synaptic neurons have to be identified and counted. We explored whether the statistics of network motifs, which requires the characterization of connections between small subsets of neurons, could be used to detect evidence for degree anti-correlations. We find that the sample frequency of the 3-neuron "ring" motif (1→2→3→1), can be used to detect degree anti-correlation for sub-networks of size 30 using about 50 samples, which is of significance because the necessary measurements are achievable experimentally in the near future. Taken together, we hypothesize that barrel cortex networks exhibit degree anti-correlations and specific network motif statistics.


barrel cortex; computational model; degree distribution; detection threshold; nanostimulation; network motifs

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