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Neuroscience and Psychiatry |

Teamwork Matters:  Coordinated Neuronal Activity in Brain Systems Relevant to Psychiatric Disorders

Bita Moghaddam, PhD1; Jesse Wood, BS1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(2):197-199. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2080.
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It is now widely recognized that dynamic coordination among groups of neurons in local and long-range circuits is critical for orchestration of behavior.1 This is especially relevant to the biological basis of psychiatric illnesses where behavior is the primary measure for determining the presence or severity of symptoms. Much of the focus in biological psychiatry has been on establishing a link between symptoms and either morphological abnormalities or altered expression of receptors or other proteins involved in neural communication. A recent line of thinking, however, posits that the mechanisms that lead to behavioral symptoms may not have a static anatomical or cellular basis but are caused by transient disruptions in the coordinated activity of ensembles of neurons.

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Figure.
Methods Used for Quantifying Coordinated Activity in Local and Long-range Circuits

A, An extracellular recording electrode detects changes in voltage in the field surrounding groups of neurons. This multicomponent signal can be filtered with a high-pass filter (top) to isolate neuronal firing (known as “spikes”) or low-pass filtered to isolate the slower local field potential (LFP) oscillations (bottom). B, In different conditions, the same neurons can become part of different networks forming a transient “functional” network. The neurons in these networks can process similar or complementary types of information, and a network may dominate processing at one moment and lose prominence the next, depending on what processes are engaged. Thus, 2 networks supporting different cognitive or affective functions may comprise overlapping neurons. C, Neuronal responses vary from trial to trial. The correlation in activity between 2 neurons is termed noise correlation. The dark blue pair of neurons shows a positive linear correlation in their activity levels over these trials. The circles are blue to indicate that the neurons have formed a functional network, similar to part B. The white pair of neurons has a correlation near zero, which indicates no functional connectivity between the neurons. D, Network-wide activity may coordinate spiking activity when spikes occur at a particular angle of ongoing LFP oscillations. Left, Two spike trains and a 7-Hz oscillation. The upper spike train is strongly phase locked to the oscillation, and all spikes occur near the valley of the oscillation. In contrast, the lower spike train fires spikes that occur at opposite phase angles and is not phase locked. Middle, Magnitude of phase locking of medial prefrontal cortex neurons on trials where attention is allocated more or less optimally. On trials where a rat correctly detects the onset and location of a visual stimulus, phase locking is increased in several frequency bands compared with trials where the animal does not correctly detect the visual stimulus.6 Right, Polar histogram of an example neuron’s spike count distributed by the phase of a theta oscillation that occurred simultaneously with the neuron firing. The spikes are not distributed evenly across all phase angles but concentrated (locked) to a preferred phase angle. E, The relationship between LFP oscillations and neural activity can also be quantified by the correlation between the power of an oscillation and the firing rate of simultaneously recorded neurons. Left, Simulated correlated spiking and gamma band power. The neuron tends to fire more rapidly when the power of the gamma oscillation is higher. This correlation can reveal coupling between network input and neuronal output patterns. Right, Psychotomimetic drugs decorrelate spikes from gamma power in the prefrontal cortex.7

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