Study of neural correlates of attention in mice with spectro-spatio-temporal approaches

University essay from KTH/Skolan för datavetenskap och kommunikation (CSC)

Abstract: While signatures of attention can be observed in widespread areas within and outside of cortex, the control of attention is thought to be regulated by higher cognitive brain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex. In their recent study on mice Kim et al. could show that successful allocation of attention is characterized by increased spiking of a specific type of inhibitory interneurons, the parvalbumin neurons, and higher oscillatory activity in the gamma band in the local prefrontal network. It was recently demonstrated that encoding of working memory in prefrontal areas is linked to bursts of gamma oscillations, a discontinuous network process characterized by short periods of intense power in the gamma band. The relationship between attention and working memory is unclear, and it is possible that these two cognitive processes share encoding principles. To address this gap, the electrophysiological data collected in the Carlén Lab have been analyzed with advanced spatio-temporal approaches. In particular, we have analyzed bursting gamma activity in medial prefrontal cortex during attentional processing and investigated the similarities to gamma bursting observed during working memory. Gamma-band bursts during attention were reliably detected with several methods. We have characterized several features of the bursts, including the occurrence, duration and amplitude. The neuronal firing rates during and outside of bursts have also been computed. We investigated the correlation between different criteria characterizing the gamma burst and successful vs failed allocation of attention. Control data were generated to discuss the obtained results. The aim of the study was to explore the hypothesis that the medial prefrontal cortex encodes attention trough gamma bursts, which could reveal some similarities and differences in coding of central cognitive processes. No clear difference was found in the characterization between successful and failed allocation of attention. In addition, results were very similar in control set and original data. No underlying mechanism could be identified from this analysis. Therefore, as the bursts occurring in the gamma band in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) were not discriminative with respect to the different tested conditions, they do not seem to encode information related to attention.

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