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Journal Articles The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience Year : 2024

Decomposing neural circuit function into information processing primitives

Abstract

ABSTRACT Cognitive functions arise from the coordinated activity of neural populations distributed over large-scale brain networks. However, it is challenging to understand and measure how specific aspects of neural dynamics translate into operations of information processing, and, ultimately, cognitive functions. An obstacle is that simple circuit mechanisms–such as self-sustained or propagating activity and nonlinear summation of inputs–do not directly give rise to high-level functions. Nevertheless, they already implement simple transformations of the information carried by neural activity. Here, we propose that distinct neural circuit functions, such as stimulus representation, working memory, or selective attention stem from different combinations and types of low-level manipulations of information, or information processing primitives. To test this hypothesis, we combine approaches from information theory with computational simulations of canonical neural circuits involving one or more interacting brain regions that emulate well-defined cognitive functions. More specifically, we track the dynamics of information emergent from dynamic patterns of neural activity, using suitable quantitative metrics to detect where and when information is actively buffered (“active information storage”), transferred (“information transfer”) or non-linearly merged (“information modification”), as possible modes of low-level processing. We find that neuronal subsets maintaining representations in working memory or performing attention-related gain modulation are signaled by their boosted involvement in operations of active information storage or information modification, respectively. Thus, information dynamics metrics, beyond detecting which network units participate in cognitive processing, also promise to specify how and when they do it, i.e., through which type of primitive computation, a capability that may be exploited for the parsing of actual experimental recordings.

Domains

Neuroscience

Dates and versions

hal-03795605 , version 1 (04-10-2022)

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Nicole Voges, Johannes Hausmann, Andrea Brovelli, Demian Battaglia. Decomposing neural circuit function into information processing primitives. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2024, ⟨10.1101/2022.08.04.502783⟩. ⟨hal-03795605⟩
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