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How many neurons are sufficient for perception of cortical activity?

Dalgleish, HWP; Russell, LE; Packer, AM; Roth, A; Gauld, OM; Greenstreet, F; Thompson, EJ; (2020) How many neurons are sufficient for perception of cortical activity? eLife , 9 , Article e58889. 10.7554/eLife.58889. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Many theories of brain function assume that information is encoded and behaviour is controlled through sparse, distributed patterns of activity. It is therefore crucial to place a lower bound on the amount of neural activity that can drive behaviour and to understand how neuronal networks operate within these constraints. We use an all-optical approach to test this lower limit by driving behaviour with targeted two-photon optogenetic activation of small ensembles of L2/3 pyramidal neurons in mouse barrel cortex while using two-photon calcium imaging to record the impact on the local network. By precisely titrating the number of neurons in activated ensembles we demonstrate that the lower bound for detection of cortical activity is ~14 pyramidal neurons. We show that there is a very steep sigmoidal relationship between the number of activated neurons and behavioural output, saturating at only ~37 neurons, and that this relationship can shift with learning. By simultaneously measuring activity in the local network, we show that the activation of stimulated ensembles is balanced by the suppression of neighbouring neurons. This surprising behavioural sensitivity in the face of potent network suppression supports the sparse coding hypothesis and suggests that perception of cortical activity balances a trade-off between minimizing the impact of noise while efficiently detecting relevant signals.

Type: Article
Title: How many neurons are sufficient for perception of cortical activity?
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.58889
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.58889
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Mouse, neuroscience
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine > Wolfson Inst for Biomedical Research
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113642
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