Cortical activity is the product of interactions among neuronal populations. Macroscopic electrophysiological phenomena are generated by these interactions. In principle, the mechanisms of these interactions afford constraints on biologically plausible models of electrophysiological responses. In other words, the macroscopic features of cortical activity can be modelled in terms of the microscopic behaviour of neurons. An evoked response potential (ERP) is the mean electrical potential measured from an electrode on the scalp, in response to some event. The purpose of this paper is to outline a population density approach to modelling ERPs.
We propose a biologically plausible model of neuronal activity that enables the estimation of physiologically meaningful parameters from electrophysiological data. The model encompasses four basic characteristics of neuronal activity and organization: (i) neurons are dynamic units, (ii) driven by stochastic forces, (iii) organized into populations with similar biophysical properties and response characteristics and (iv) multiple populations interact to form functional networks. This leads to a formulation of population dynamics in terms of the Fokker–Planck equation. The solution of this equation is the temporal evolution of a probability density over state-space, representing the distribution of an ensemble of trajectories. Each trajectory corresponds to the changing state of a neuron. Measurements can be modelled by taking expectations over this density, e.g. mean membrane potential, firing rate or energy consumption per neuron. The key motivation behind our approach is that ERPs represent an average response over many neurons. This means it is sufficient to model the probability density over neurons, because this implicitly models their average state. Although the dynamics of each neuron can be highly stochastic, the dynamics of the density is not. This means we can use Bayesian inference and estimation tools that have already been established for deterministic systems. The potential importance of modelling density dynamics (as opposed to more conventional neural mass models) is that they include interactions among the moments of neuronal states (e.g. the mean depolarization may depend on the variance of synaptic currents through nonlinear mechanisms).
Here, we formulate a population model, based on biologically informed model-neurons with spike-rate adaptation and synaptic dynamics. Neuronal sub-populations are coupled to form an observation model, with the aim of estimating and making inferences about coupling among sub-populations using real data. We approximate the time-dependent solution of the system using a bi-orthogonal set and first-order perturbation expansion. For didactic purposes, the model is developed first in the context of deterministic input, and then extended to include stochastic effects. The approach is demonstrated using synthetic data, where model parameters are identified using a Bayesian estimation scheme we have described previously.
One contribution of 21 to a Theme Issue ‘Multimodal neuroimaging of brain connectivity’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society