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Interacting Turing-Hopf Instabilities Drive Symmetry-Breaking Transitions in a Mean-Field Model of the Cortex: A Mechanism for the Slow Oscillation

Electrical recordings of brain activity during the transition from wake to anesthetic coma show temporal and spectral alterations that are correlated with gross changes in the underlying brain state. Entry into anesthetic unconsciousness is signposted by the emergence of large, slow oscillations of electrical activity (≲1  Hz) similar to the slow waves observed in natural sleep. Here we present a two-dimensional mean-field model of the cortex in which slow spatiotemporal oscillations arise spontaneously through a Turing (spatial) symmetry-breaking bifurcation that is modulated by a Hopf (temporal) instability. In our model, populations of neurons are densely interlinked by chemical synapses, and by interneuronal gap junctions represented as an inhibitory diffusive coupling. To demonstrate cortical behavior over a wide range of distinct brain states, we explore model dynamics in the vicinity of a general-anesthetic-induced transition from “wake” to “coma.” In this region, the system is poised at a codimension-2 point where competing Turing and Hopf instabilities coexist. We model anesthesia as a moderate reduction in inhibitory diffusion, paired with an increase in inhibitory postsynaptic response, producing a coma state that is characterized by emergent low-frequency oscillations whose dynamics is chaotic in time and space. The effect of long-range axonal white-matter connectivity is probed with the inclusion of a single idealized point-to-point connection. We find that the additional excitation from the long-range connection can provoke seizurelike bursts of cortical activity when inhibitory diffusion is weak, but has little impact on an active cortex. Our proposed dynamic mechanism for the origin of anesthetic slow waves complements—and contrasts with—conventional explanations that require cyclic modulation of ion-channel conductances. We postulate that a similar bifurcation mechanism might underpin the slow waves of natural sleep and comment on the possible consequences of chaotic dynamics for memory processing and learning.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Steyn-Ross, M. L., Steyn-Ross, D. A., & Sleigh, J. W. (2013). Interacting Turing-Hopf Instabilities Drive Symmetry-Breaking Transitions in a Mean-Field Model of the Cortex: A Mechanism for the Slow Oscillation. Physical Review X, 3(2), 021005.
American Physical Society
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