Assistant Professor Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine Yale University
Abstract: The cerebral cortex plays key roles in perception and cognition. Cortical function is enormously flexible and adapts rapidly to changes in the surrounding sensory environment as we move through the world. Spontaneous and sensory-evoked cortical activity is highly state-dependent, yet relatively little is known about transitions between the distinct waking states associated with cognition. Patterns of neural activity in the cortex differ dramatically between quiet and active states, and these changes are associated with alterations in the sensitivity and efficacy of encoding of sensory information. Using naturally occurring and induced state transitions, we have dissociated the effects of global arousal and motor activity in primary visual cortex. Arousal enhances the encoding of visual information and reduces background activity, whereas locomotion increases overall firing rates. Our findings suggest complementary roles of arousal and locomotion in promoting the flexibility of cortical circuits. However, this functional flexibility may be lost or compromised in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. In our recent work, we find that disruption of cortical GABAergic interneurons in a mouse model of Rett Syndrome causes a dysregulation of state-dependent cortical activity and sensory function.