A novel method for the topographic analysis of neural activity reveals formation and dissolution of 'Dynamic Cell Assemblies'

Michael Breakspear, Leanne M Williams, Cornelis J Stam

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The study of synchronous oscillations in neural systems is a very active area of research. However, cognitive function may depend more crucially upon a dynamic alternation between synchronous and desynchronous activity rather than synchronous behaviour per se. The principle aim of this study is to develop and validate a novel method of quantifying this complex process. The method permits a direct mapping of phase synchronous dynamics and desynchronizing bursts in the spatial and temporal domains. Two data sets are analyzed: Numeric data from a model of a sparsely coupled neural cell assembly and experimental data consisting of scalp-recorded EEG from 40 human subjects. In the numeric data, the approach enables the demonstration of complex relationships between cluster size and temporal duration that cannot be detected with other methods. Dynamic patterns of phase-clustering and desynchronization are also demonstrated in the experimental data. It is further shown that in a significant proportion of the recordings, the pattern of dynamics exhibits nonlinear structure. We argue that this procedure provides a 'natural partitioning' of ongoing brain dynamics into topographically distinct synchronous epochs which may be integral to the brain's adaptive function. In particular, the character of transitions between consecutive synchronous epochs may reflect important aspects of information processing and cognitive flexibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-68
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of computational neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2004

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