Lognormal firing rate distribution reveals prominent fluctuation-driven regime in spinal motor networks

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Peter C Petersen, Rune W Berg

Abstract

When spinal circuits generate rhythmic movements it is important that the neuronal activity remains within stable bounds to avoid saturation and to preserve responsiveness. In what dynamical regime does the neuronal population operate in order to achieve this? Here, we simultaneously recorded from hundreds of neurons in lumbar spinal circuits and establish the neuronal fraction that operates within either a mean driven or a fluctuation driven regime during generation of multiple motor behaviors. We find a rich diversity of firing rates across the neuronal population as reflected in a lognormal distribution and demonstrate that half of the neurons spend at least 50% of the time in the fluctuation driven regime regardless of behavior. Since neurons in this regime have a supralinear input output curve, which enhances sensitivity, whereas the mean driven regime reduces sensitivity, this fraction may reflect a fine trade off between stability and sensitivity in order to maintain flexibility across motor behaviors.

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