Mathematics, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, August 26, 2009 • 29(34):10600 –10612. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2053-09.2009 Copyright © 2009 Society for Neuroscience. Used by permission.


The responses of neocortical cells to sensory stimuli are variable and state dependent. It has been hypothesized that intrinsic cortical dynamics play an important role in trial-to-trial variability; the precise nature of this dependence, however, is poorly understood. We show here that in auditory cortex of urethane-anesthetized rats, population responses to click stimuli can be quantitatively predicted on a trial-by-trial basis by a simple dynamical system model estimated from spontaneous activity immediately preceding stimulus presentation. Changes in cortical state correspond consistently to changes in model dynamics, reflecting a nonlinear, self-exciting system in synchronized states and an approximately linear system in desynchronized states. We propose that the complex and state-dependent pattern of trial-to-trial variability can be explained by a simple principle: sensory responses are shaped by the same intrinsic dynamics that govern ongoing spontaneous activity.

Included in

Mathematics Commons