Steyn-Ross, M. L., Steyn-Ross, D. A., Wilson, M. T. & Sleigh, J. W. (2007). Gap junctions mediate large-scale Turing structures in a mean-field cortex driven by subcortical noise. Physical Review E, 76, 011916.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/1436
One of the grand puzzles in neuroscience is establishing the link between cognition and the disparate patterns of spontaneous and task-induced brain activity that can be measured clinically using a wide range of detection modalities such as scalp electrodes and imaging tomography. High-level brain function is not a single-neuron property, yet emerges as a cooperative phenomenon of multiply-interacting populations of neurons. Therefore a fruitful modeling approach is to picture the cerebral cortex as a continuum characterized by parameters that have been averaged over a small volume of cortical tissue. Such mean-field cortical models have been used to investigate gross patterns of brain behavior such as anesthesia, the cycles of natural sleep, memory and erasure in slow-wave sleep, and epilepsy. There is persuasive and accumulating evidence that direct gap-junction connections between inhibitory neurons promote synchronous oscillatory behavior both locally and across distances of some centimeters, but, to date, continuum models have ignored gap-junction connectivity. In this paper we employ simple mean-field arguments to derive an expression for D2, the diffusive coupling strength arising from gap-junction connections between inhibitory neurons. Using recent neurophysiological measurements reported by Fukuda et al. [J. Neurosci. 26, 3434 (2006)], we estimate an upper limit of D2 0.6 cm2. We apply a linear stability analysis to a standard mean-field cortical model, augmented with gap-junction diffusion, and find this value for the diffusive coupling strength to be close to the critical value required to destabilize the homogeneous steady state. Computer simulations demonstrate that larger values of D2 cause the noise-driven model cortex to spontaneously crystalize into random mazelike Turing structures: centimeter-scale spatial patterns in which regions of high-firing activity are intermixed with regions of low-firing activity. These structures are consistent with the spatial variations in brain activity patterns detected with the BOLD (blood oxygen–level–dependent) signal detected with magnetic resonance imaging, and may provide a natural substrate for synchronous gamma-band rhythms observed across separated EEG (electroencephalogram) electrodes.
American Physical Society: doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.76.011916