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Front Physiol. 2019 Feb 28;10:113. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00113. eCollection 2019.

Multi-Scale Expressions of One Optimal State Regulated by Dopamine in the Prefrontal Cortex.

Hu G1,2,3, Huang X1,2,4,5, Jiang T1,2,5,3, Yu S1,2,5,3.

Author information

1
Brainnetome Center, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
2
National Laboratory of Pattern Recognition, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
3
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
4
Research Center for Brain-inspired Intelligence, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
5
CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.

Abstract

The prefrontal cortex (PFC), which plays key roles in many higher cognitive processes, is a hierarchical system consisting of multi-scale organizations. Optimizing the working state at each scale is essential for PFC's information processing. Typical optimal working states at different scales have been separately reported, including the dopamine-mediated inverted-U profile of the working memory (WM) at the system level, critical dynamics at the network level, and detailed balance of excitatory and inhibitory currents (E/I balance) at the cellular level. However, it remains unclear whether these states are scale-specific expressions of the same optimal state and, if so, what is the underlying mechanism for its regulation traversing across scales. Here, by studying a neural network model, we show that the optimal performance of WM co-occurs with the critical dynamics at the network level and the E/I balance at the level of individual neurons, suggesting the existence of a unified, multi-scale optimal state for the PFC. Importantly, such a state could be modulated by dopamine at the synaptic level through a series of U or inverted-U profiles. These results suggest that seemingly different optimal states for specific scales are multi-scale expressions of one condition regulated by dopamine. Our work suggests a cross-scale perspective to understand the PFC function and its modulation.

KEYWORDS:

E/I balance; criticality; dopamine; optimal states; the PFC; working memory

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