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Undersampled Critical Branching Processes on Small-World and Random Networks Fail to Reproduce the Statistics of Spike Avalanches

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      The power-law size distributions obtained experimentally for neuronal avalanches are an important evidence of criticality in the brain. This evidence is supported by the fact that a critical branching process exhibits the same exponent . Models at criticality have been employed to mimic avalanche propagation and explain the statistics observed experimentally. However, a crucial aspect of neuronal recordings has been almost completely neglected in the models: undersampling. While in a typical multielectrode array hundreds of neurons are recorded, in the same area of neuronal tissue tens of thousands of neurons can be found. Here we investigate the consequences of undersampling in models with three different topologies (two-dimensional, small-world and random network) and three different dynamical regimes (subcritical, critical and supercritical). We found that undersampling modifies avalanche size distributions, extinguishing the power laws observed in critical systems. Distributions from subcritical systems are also modified, but the shape of the undersampled distributions is more similar to that of a fully sampled system. Undersampled supercritical systems can recover the general characteristics of the fully sampled version, provided that enough neurons are measured. Undersampling in two-dimensional and small-world networks leads to similar effects, while the random network is insensitive to sampling density due to the lack of a well-defined neighborhood. We conjecture that neuronal avalanches recorded from local field potentials avoid undersampling effects due to the nature of this signal, but the same does not hold for spike avalanches. We conclude that undersampled branching-process-like models in these topologies fail to reproduce the statistics of spike avalanches.

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      Most cited references 24

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      Collective dynamics of 'small-world' networks.

      Networks of coupled dynamical systems have been used to model biological oscillators, Josephson junction arrays, excitable media, neural networks, spatial games, genetic control networks and many other self-organizing systems. Ordinarily, the connection topology is assumed to be either completely regular or completely random. But many biological, technological and social networks lie somewhere between these two extremes. Here we explore simple models of networks that can be tuned through this middle ground: regular networks 'rewired' to introduce increasing amounts of disorder. We find that these systems can be highly clustered, like regular lattices, yet have small characteristic path lengths, like random graphs. We call them 'small-world' networks, by analogy with the small-world phenomenon (popularly known as six degrees of separation. The neural network of the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, the power grid of the western United States, and the collaboration graph of film actors are shown to be small-world networks. Models of dynamical systems with small-world coupling display enhanced signal-propagation speed, computational power, and synchronizability. In particular, infectious diseases spread more easily in small-world networks than in regular lattices.
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        The origin of extracellular fields and currents--EEG, ECoG, LFP and spikes.

        Neuronal activity in the brain gives rise to transmembrane currents that can be measured in the extracellular medium. Although the major contributor of the extracellular signal is the synaptic transmembrane current, other sources--including Na(+) and Ca(2+) spikes, ionic fluxes through voltage- and ligand-gated channels, and intrinsic membrane oscillations--can substantially shape the extracellular field. High-density recordings of field activity in animals and subdural grid recordings in humans, combined with recently developed data processing tools and computational modelling, can provide insight into the cooperative behaviour of neurons, their average synaptic input and their spiking output, and can increase our understanding of how these processes contribute to the extracellular signal.
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          Neuronal avalanches in neocortical circuits.

          Networks of living neurons exhibit diverse patterns of activity, including oscillations, synchrony, and waves. Recent work in physics has shown yet another mode of activity in systems composed of many nonlinear units interacting locally. For example, avalanches, earthquakes, and forest fires all propagate in systems organized into a critical state in which event sizes show no characteristic scale and are described by power laws. We hypothesized that a similar mode of activity with complex emergent properties could exist in networks of cortical neurons. We investigated this issue in mature organotypic cultures and acute slices of rat cortex by recording spontaneous local field potentials continuously using a 60 channel multielectrode array. Here, we show that propagation of spontaneous activity in cortical networks is described by equations that govern avalanches. As predicted by theory for a critical branching process, the propagation obeys a power law with an exponent of -3/2 for event sizes, with a branching parameter close to the critical value of 1. Simulations show that a branching parameter at this value optimizes information transmission in feedforward networks, while preventing runaway network excitation. Our findings suggest that "neuronal avalanches" may be a generic property of cortical networks, and represent a mode of activity that differs profoundly from oscillatory, synchronized, or wave-like network states. In the critical state, the network may satisfy the competing demands of information transmission and network stability.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Physics Department, Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil
            [2 ]Brain Institute, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brasil
            University of Michigan, United States of America
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: SR. Performed the experiments: SR HB FC. Analyzed the data: TLR MC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: TLR SR HB FC MC. Wrote the paper: TLR SR MC.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            21 April 2014
            : 9
            : 4

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Pages: 10
            Work supported by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos (FINEP) grant 01.06.1092.00, Pró-Reitoria de Pós-Graduação da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)/Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (MCTI), CNPq Universal Grants 481351/2011-6, 473554/2011-9 and 480053/2013-8, Programa de Apoio a Núcleos Emergentes PRONEM 003/2011 FAPERN/CNPq and PRONEM 12/2010 FACEPE/CNPq, Pew Latin American Fellows Program in the Biomedical Sciences, and Centro de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão (CEPID-Neuromat). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
            Research Article
            Biology and Life Sciences
            Computational Biology
            Computational Neuroscience
            Physical Sciences
            Probability Theory
            Statistical Distributions
            Distribution Curves
            Condensed Matter Physics
            Phase Transitions
            Interdisciplinary Physics



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