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PLoS Biol. 2015 Jun 3;13(6):e1002158. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002158. eCollection 2015 Jun.

Mesoscopic patterns of neural activity support songbird cortical sequences.

Author information

1
Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America; Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
2
Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
3
Program in Neuroscience, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
4
Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America.
5
Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America; Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Abstract

Time-locked sequences of neural activity can be found throughout the vertebrate forebrain in various species and behavioral contexts. From "time cells" in the hippocampus of rodents to cortical activity controlling movement, temporal sequence generation is integral to many forms of learned behavior. However, the mechanisms underlying sequence generation are not well known. Here, we describe a spatial and temporal organization of the songbird premotor cortical microcircuit that supports sparse sequences of neural activity. Multi-channel electrophysiology and calcium imaging reveal that neural activity in premotor cortex is correlated with a length scale of 100 µm. Within this length scale, basal-ganglia-projecting excitatory neurons, on average, fire at a specific phase of a local 30 Hz network rhythm. These results show that premotor cortical activity is inhomogeneous in time and space, and that a mesoscopic dynamical pattern underlies the generation of the neural sequences controlling song.

PMID:
26039895
PMCID:
PMC4454690
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pbio.1002158
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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