Noise focusing and the emergence of coherent activity in neuronal cultures

Javier G. Orlandi, Jordi Soriano, Enrique Alvarez-Lacalle, Sara Teller and Jaume Casademunt

Nature Physics, 9-9, pp. 582-590 (2013)


At early stages of development, neuronal cultures in vitro spontaneously reach a coherent state of collective firing in a pattern of nearly periodic global bursts. Although understanding the spontaneous activity of neuronal networks is of chief importance in neuroscience, the origin and nature of that pulsation has remained elusive. By combining high-resolution calcium imaging with modelling in silico, we show that this behaviour is controlled by the propagation of waves that nucleate randomly in a set of points that is specific to each culture and is selected by a non-trivial interplay between dynamics and topology. The phenomenon is explained by the noise focusing effect—a strong spatio-temporal localization of the noise dynamics that originates in the complex structure of avalanches of spontaneous activity. Results are relevant to neuronal tissues and to complex networks with integrate-and-fire dynamics and metric correlations, for instance, in rumour spreading on social networks.


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Neuronal networks: Focus amidst the noise

John M. Beggs

High-resolution imaging of neuronal networks reveals that spontaneous bursts of collective activity are a consequence of an implosive concentration of noise.