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Neural Computation

December 2008, Vol. 20, No. 12, Pages 3055-3086
(doi: 10.1162/neco.2008.08-07-589)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An Ongoing Subthreshold Neuronal State Established Through Dynamic Coassembling of Cortical Cells
Article PDF (1.88 MB)
Abstract

Ensemble activation of neurons, triggered or spontaneous, sometimes involves a common (overlapping) neuronal population known as core cells. It is speculated that the core cells functioning as a core nucleus have a role in dictating noncore cells' behavior and thus overall local network dynamics. However, the truth and its significance in neuronal information processing still remain to be seen. To address this issue, a neural network model of an early sensory cortical area was simulated. In the network model, noncore cells that have selective responsiveness to sensory features constituted noncore cell assemblies. Core cells, having unselective responsiveness, constituted a single core cell assembly. Sensory stimulation activated neuronal ensembles that were indistinguishable from those activated spontaneously. The core cells were active in every ensemble activation and recruited a changing complement of noncore cells, which varied from spontaneous event to spontaneous event or from triggered event to triggered event. Ensemble activation of neurons was established through what we call dynamic coassembling, in which the core cell assembly and one of the noncore cell assemblies were dynamically linked together. Transient dynamic coassembling frequently and randomly took place during the ongoing (spontaneous) neuronal activity period, and persistent dynamic coassembling did during the stimulus-triggered neuronal activity period. The frequent ongoing activation of core cells mediated through transient dynamic coassembling depolarized noncore cells just below firing threshold, whereby the noncore cells could respond rapidly to sensory stimulation. The persistent dynamic coassembling enhanced the responsiveness of noncore cells. We suggest that the core cells, functioning as a core nucleus, dictate how the noncore cells oscillate at a subthreshold level during the ongoing period and how to respond when stimulated. The transient and persistent dynamic coassembling may be an essential neuronal mechanism for the cortex to prepare and respond effectively to sensory input.