Linking synaptic connectivity to dynamics is key to understanding information processing in neocortex. Circuit dynamics emerge from complex interactions of interconnected neurons, necessitating that links between connectivity and dynamics be evaluated at the network level. Here we map propagating activity in large neuronal ensembles from mouse neocortex and compare it to a recurrent network model, where connectivity can be precisely measured and manipulated. We find that a dynamical feature dominates statistical descriptions of propagating activity for both neocortex and the model: convergent clusters comprised of fan-in triangle motifs, where two input neurons are themselves connected. Fan-in triangles coordinate the timing of presynaptic inputs during ongoing activity to effectively generate postsynaptic spiking. As a result, paradoxically, fan-in triangles dominate the statistics of spike propagation even in randomly connected recurrent networks. Interplay between higher-order synaptic connectivity and the integrative properties of neurons constrains the structure of network dynamics and shapes the routing of information in neocortex.
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