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Diverse coactive neurons encode stimulus-driven and stimulus-independent variables.

  • Author(s): Xia, Ji
  • Marks, Tyler D
  • Goard, Michael J
  • Wessel, Ralf
  • et al.

Both experimenter-controlled stimuli and stimulus-independent variables impact cortical neural activity. A major hurdle to understanding neural representation is distinguishing between qualitatively different causes of the fluctuating population activity. We applied an unsupervised low-rank tensor decomposition analysis to the recorded population activity in the visual cortex of awake mice in response to repeated presentations of naturalistic visual stimuli. We found that neurons covaried largely independently of individual neuron stimulus response reliability and thus encoded both stimulus-driven and stimulus-independent variables. Importantly, a neuron's response reliability and the neuronal coactivation patterns substantially reorganized for different external visual inputs. Analysis of recurrent balanced neural network models revealed that both the stimulus specificity and the mixed encoding of qualitatively different variables can arise from clustered external inputs. These results establish that coactive neurons with diverse response reliability mediate a mixed representation of stimulus-driven and stimulus-independent variables in the visual cortex.NEW & NOTEWORTHY V1 neurons covary largely independently of individual neuron's response reliability. A single neuron's response reliability imposes only a weak constraint on its encoding capabilities. Visual stimulus instructs a neuron's reliability and coactivation pattern. Network models revealed using clustered external inputs.

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