Information Transmission in Delay-Coupled Neuronal Circuits in the Presence of a Relay Population

Sánchez-Claros, Jaime ; Pariz, Aref; Valizadeh, Alireza; Canals, Santiago; Mirasso, Claudio
Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 15, 705371: 1-16 (2021)

Synchronization between neuronal populations is hypothesized to play a crucial role in the communication between brain networks. The binding of features, or the association of computations occurring in spatially segregated areas, is supposed to take place when a stable synchronization between cortical areas occurs. While a direct cortico-cortical connection typically fails to support this mechanism, the participation of a third area, a relay element, mediating in the communication was proposed to overcome this limitation. Among the different structures that could play the role of coordination during the binding process, the thalamus is the best-placed region to carry out this task.
In this paper, we study how information flows in a canonical motif that mimics a cortico-thalamo-cortical circuit composed of three mutually coupled neuronal populations (also called the V-motif). Through extensive numerical simulations, we found that the amount of information transferred between the oscillating neuronal populations is determined by the delay in their connections and the mismatch in their oscillation frequencies (detuning). While the transmission from a cortical population is mostly restricted to positive detuning, transmission from the relay (thalamic) population to the cortical populations is robust for a broad range of detuning values, including negative values, while permitting feedback communication from the cortex at high frequencies, thus supporting robust bottom-up and top-down interaction. In this case, a strong feedback transmission between the cortex to thalamus supports the possibility of robust
bottom-up and top-down interactions in this motif. Interestingly, adding a cortico-cortical bidirectional connection to the V-motif (C-motif) expands the dynamics of the system with distinct operation modes. While overall transmission efficiency is decreased, new communication channels establish cortico-thalamo-cortical association loops. Switching between operation modes depends on the synaptic strength of the cortico-cortical connections. Our results support the role of the transthalamic V-motif in the binding of spatially segregated cortical computations and suggest an important regulatory role of the direct cortico-cortical connection.

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