Brain-state dependence of cortical population dynamics

Although the classical approach in Neuroscience has been to establish neural correlates of sensory or action-related variables, which are measurable and to a large extent controllable by the experimenter, the activity of neurons in many brain areas, including the cortex, is strongly dependent on global internal variables that modulate the organism as a whole, such as arousal, motivation, etc. Such variables, which determine what is typically referred to as brain-state, depend on the action of neuro-modulatory systems and, due to their global nature, have a very large impact on patterns of neural activity at the population level. We are interested in characterizing how the dynamics of populations of neurons in (sensory) cortex depend on brain-state, focusing on states of activation or desynchronization, typical of attentive wakefulness, but which can also be generated pharmacologically under anesthesia. We study the statistical structure and functional role of spontaneous activity fluctuations in cortical populations and their relationship with evoked sensory responses, in order to get a better understanding of the nature of neural variability and its impact on behaviour.

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