Voltage imaging of waking mouse cortex reveals emergence of critical neuronal dynamics

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Complex cognitive processes require neuronal activity to be coordinated across multiple scales, ranging from local microcircuits to cortex-wide networks. However, multiscale cortical dynamics are not well understood because few experimental approaches have provided sufficient support for hypotheses involving multiscale interactions. To address these limitations, we used, in experiments involving mice, genetically encoded voltage indicator imaging, which measures cortex-wide electrical activity at high spatiotemporal resolution. Here we show that, as mice recovered from anesthesia, scale-invariant spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity gradually emerge. We show for the first time that this scale-invariant activity spans four orders of magnitude in awake mice. In contrast, we found that the cortical dynamics of anesthetized mice were not scale invariant. Our results bridge empirical evidence from disparate scales and support theoretical predictions that the awake cortex operates in a dynamical regime known as criticality. The criticality hypothesis predicts that small-scale cortical dynamics are governed by the same principles as those governing larger-scale dynamics. Importantly, these scaleinvariant principles also optimize certain aspects of information processing. Our results suggest that during the emergence from anesthesia, criticality arises as information processing demands increase. Weexpect that, as measurement tools advance toward larger scales and greater resolution, the multiscale framework offered by criticality will continue to provide quantitative predictions and insight on how neurons, microcircuits, and large-scale networks are dynamically coordinated in the brain.




Scott, G., Fagerholm, E. D., Mutoh, H., Leech, R., Sharp, D. J., Shew, W. L., & Knöpfel, T. (2014). Voltage imaging of waking mouse cortex reveals emergence of critical neuronal dynamics. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(50), 16611–16620. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3474-14.2014

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