Brain state limits propagation of neural signals in laminar cortical circuits
Kharas, Natasha; Andrei, Ariana; Debes, Samantha R.; Dragoi, Valentin
Our perception of the environment relies on the efficient propagation of neural signals across cortical networks. During the time course of a day, neural responses fluctuate dramatically as the state of the brain changes to possibly influence how electrical signals propagate across neural circuits. Despite the importance of this issue, how patterns of spiking activity propagate within neuronal circuits in different brain states remains unknown. Here, we used multielectrode laminar arrays to reveal that brain state strongly modulates the propagation of neural activity across the layers of early visual cortex (V1). We optogenetically induced synchronized state transitions within a group of neurons and examined how far electrical signals travel during wakefulness and rest. Although optogenetic stimulation elicits stronger neural responses during wakefulness relative to rest, signals propagate only weakly across the cortical column during wakefulness, and the extent of spread is inversely related to arousal level. In contrast, the light-induced population activity vigorously propagates throughout the entire cortical column during rest, even when neurons are in a desynchronized wake-like state prior to light stimulation. Mechanistically, the influence of global brain state on the propagation of spiking activity across laminar circuits can be explained by state-dependent changes in the coupling between neurons. Our results impose constraints on the conclusions of causal manipulation studies attempting to influence neural function and behavior, as well as on previous computational models of perception assuming robust signal propagation across cortical layers and areas.