Self-organization of modular activity in immature cortical networks

Haleigh N Mulholland, Matthias Kaschube, Gordon B Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During development, cortical activity is organized into distributed modular patterns that are a precursor of the mature columnar functional architecture. Theoretically, such structured neural activity can emerge dynamically from local synaptic interactions through a recurrent network with effective local excitation with lateral inhibition (LE/LI) connectivity. Utilizing simultaneous widefield calcium imaging and optogenetics in juvenile ferret cortex prior to eye opening, we directly test several critical predictions of an LE/LI mechanism. We show that cortical networks transform uniform stimulations into diverse modular patterns exhibiting a characteristic spatial wavelength. Moreover, patterned optogenetic stimulation matching this wavelength selectively biases evoked activity patterns, while stimulation with varying wavelengths transforms activity towards this characteristic wavelength, revealing a dynamic compromise between input drive and the network's intrinsic tendency to organize activity. Furthermore, the structure of early spontaneous cortical activity - which is reflected in the developing representations of visual orientation - strongly overlaps that of uniform opto-evoked activity, suggesting a common underlying mechanism as a basis for the formation of orderly columnar maps underlying sensory representations in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4145
Pages (from-to)4145
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Animals
  • Ferrets
  • Optogenetics
  • Nerve Net/physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex/physiology
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Calcium/metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex/physiology
  • Male

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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