Geometry of inter-areal interactions in mouse visual cortex
Proceedings of the 1st NeurIPS Workshop on Symmetry and Geometry in Neural Representations, PMLR 197:327-353, 2023.
The response of a set of neurons in an area is the result of the sensory input, the interaction of the neurons within the area as well as the long range interactions between areas. We aimed to study the relation between interactions among multiple areas, and if they are fixed or dynamic. The structural connectivity provides a substrate for these interactions, but anatomical connectivity is not known in sufficient detail and it only gives us a static picture. Using the Allen Brain Observatory Visual Coding Neuropixels dataset, which includes simultaneous recordings of spiking activity from up to 6 hierarchically organized mouse cortical visual areas, we estimate the functional connectivity between neurons using a linear model of responses to flashed static grating stimuli. We characterize functional connectivity between populations via interaction subspaces. We find that distinct subspaces of a source area mediate interactions with distinct target areas, supporting the notion that cortical areas use distinct channels to communicate. Most importantly, using a piecewise linear model for activity within each trial, we find that these interactions evolve dynamically over tens of milliseconds following a stimulus presentation. Inter-areal subspaces become more aligned with the intra-areal subspaces during epochs in which a feedforward wave of activity propagates through visual cortical areas. When the short-term dynamics are averaged over, we find that the interaction subspaces are stable over multiple stimulus blocks. These findings have important implications for understanding how information flows through biological neural networks composed of interconnected modules, each of which may have a distinct functional specialization.