A theory of how active behavior stabilises neural activity: neural gain modulation by closed-loop environmental feedback

Buckley, Christopher and Toyoizumi, Taro (2018) A theory of how active behavior stabilises neural activity: neural gain modulation by closed-loop environmental feedback. PLoS Computational Biology. ISSN 1553-734X

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During active behaviours like running, swimming, whisking or sniffing, motor actions shape sensory input and sensory percepts guide future motor commands. Ongoing cycles of sensory and motor processing constitute a closed-loop feedback system which is central to motor control and, it has been argued, for perceptual processes. This closed-loop feedback is mediated by brainwide neural circuits but how the presence of feedback signals impacts on the dynamics and function of neurons is not well understood. Here we present a simple theory suggesting that closed-loop feedback between the brain/body/environment can modulate neural gain and, consequently, change endogenous neural fluctuations and responses to sensory input. We support this theory with modeling and data analysis in two vertebrate systems. First, in a model of rodent whisking we show that negative feedback mediated by whisking vibrissa can suppress coherent neural fluctuations and neural responses to sensory input in the barrel cortex. We argue this suppression provides an appealing account of a brain state transition (a marked change in global brain activity) coincident with the onset of whisking in rodents. Moreover, this mechanism suggests a novel signal detection mechanism that selectively accentuates active, rather than passive, whisker touch signals. This mechanism is consistent with a predictive coding strategy that is sensitive to the consequences of motor actions rather than the difference between the predicted and actual sensory input. We further support the theory by re-analysing previously published two-photon data recorded in zebrafish larvae performing closed-loop optomotor behaviour in a virtual swim simulator. We show, as predicted by this theory, that the degree to which each cell contributes in linking sensory and motor signals well explains how much its neural fluctuations are suppressed by closed-loop optomotor behaviour. More generally we argue that our results demonstrate the dependence of neural fluctuations, across the brain, on closed-loop brain/body/environment interactions strongly supporting the idea that brain function cannot be fully understood through open-loop approaches alone.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General) > Q0300 Cybernetics
Q Science > Q Science (General) > Q0300 Cybernetics > Q0350 Information theory
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology > QP0361 Nervous system
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology > QP0431 Senses
Depositing User: Christopher Buckley
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 17:40
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2018 15:27
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/72045

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