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Dynamics of a Mutual Inhibition Circuit between Pyramidal Neurons Compared to Human Perceptual Competition

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Neural competition plays an essential role in active selection processes of noisy and ambiguous input signals, and it is assumed to underlie emergent properties of brain functioning, such as perceptual organization and decision-making. Despite ample theoretical research on neural competition, experimental tools to allow neurophysiological investigation of competing neurons have not been available. We developed a "hybrid" system where real-life neurons and a computer-simulated neural circuit interacted. It enabled us to construct a mutual inhibition circuit between two real-life pyramidal neurons. We then asked what dynamics this minimal unit of neural competition exhibits and compared them with the known behavioral-level dynamics of neural competition. We found that the pair of neurons shows bistability when activated simultaneously by current injections. The addition of modeled synaptic noise and changes in the activation strength showed that the dynamics of the circuit are strikingly similar to the known properties of bistable visual perception: The distribution of dominance durations showed a right-skewed shape, and the changes of the activation strengths caused changes in dominance, dominance durations, and reversal rates as stated in the well-known empirical laws of bistable perception known as Levelt's propositions.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Visual perception emerges as the result of neural systems actively organizing visual signals that involves selection processes of competing neurons. While the neural competition, realized by a "mutual inhibition" circuit has been examined in many theoretical studies, its properties have not been investigated in real neurons. We have developed a "hybrid" system where two real-life pyramidal neurons in a mouse brain slice interact through a computer-simulated mutual inhibition circuit. We found that simultaneous activation of the neurons leads to bistable activity. We investigated the effect of noise and the effect of changes in the activation strength on the dynamics. We observed that the pair of neurons exhibit dynamics strikingly similar to the known properties of bistable visual perception.
Journal: Journal of Neuroscience
ISSN: 0270-6474
Issue: 6
Volume: 41
Pages: 1251 - 1264
Number of pages: 14
Publication year:2021