Emergent cortical circuit dynamics contain dense, interwoven ensembles of spike sequences

Joseph B. Dechery, Jason N. MacLean
2017 Journal of Neurophysiology  
Dechery JB, MacLean JN. Emergent cortical circuit dynamics contain dense, interwoven ensembles of spike sequences. Temporal codes are theoretically powerful encoding schemes, but their precise form in the neocortex remains unknown in part because of the large number of possible codes and the difficulty in disambiguating informative spikes from statistical noise. A biologically plausible and computationally powerful temporal coding scheme is the Hebbian assembly phase sequence (APS), which
more » ... ts reliable propagation of spikes between functionally related assemblies of neurons. Here, we sought to measure the inherent capacity of neocortical networks to produce reliable sequences of spikes, as would be predicted by an APS code. To record microcircuit activity, the scale at which computation is implemented, we used two-photon calcium imaging to densely sample spontaneous activity in murine neocortical networks ex vivo. We show that the population spike histogram is sufficient to produce a spatiotemporal progression of activity across the population. To more comprehensively evaluate the capacity for sequential spiking that cannot be explained by the overall population spiking, we identify statistically significant spike sequences. We found a large repertoire of sequence spikes that collectively comprise the majority of spiking in the circuit. Sequences manifest probabilistically and share neuron membership, resulting in unique ensembles of interwoven sequences characterizing individual spatiotemporal progressions of activity. Distillation of population dynamics into its constituent sequences provides a way to capture trial-to-trial variability and may prove to be a powerful decoding substrate in vivo. Informed by these data, we suggest that the Hebbian APS be reformulated as interwoven sequences with flexible assembly membership due to shared overlapping neurons. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Neocortical computation occurs largely within microcircuits comprised of individual neurons and their connections within small volumes (Ͻ500 m 3 ). We found evidence for a long-postulated temporal code, the Hebbian assembly phase sequence, by identifying repeated and co-occurring sequences of spikes. Variance in population activity across trials was explained in part by the ensemble of active sequences. The presence of interwoven sequences suggests that neuronal assembly structure can be variable and is determined by previous activity.
doi:10.1152/jn.00394.2017 pmid:28724786 fatcat:mko2dfg6x5bhhhvhzyrlltrdz4