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Impact of GABA A and GABA B Inhibition on Cortical Dynamics and Perturbational Complexity during Synchronous and Desynchronized States

  • Barbero-Castillo, Almudena
  • Mateos-Aparicio, Pedro
  • Dalla Porta, Leonardo
  • Camassa, Alessandra
  • Perez-Mendez, Lorena
  • Sanchez-Vives, Maria V.
Published Article
Journal of Neuroscience
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Jun 09, 2021
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1837-20.2021
PMID: 33906901
PMCID: PMC8197642
PubMed Central
  • Research Articles
  • Systems/Circuits


Quantitative estimations of spatiotemporal complexity of cortical activity patterns are used in the clinic as a measure of consciousness levels, but the cortical mechanisms involved are not fully understood. We used a version of the perturbational complexity index (PCI) adapted to multisite recordings from the ferret (either sex) cerebral cortex in vitro (sPCI) to investigate the role of GABAergic inhibition in cortical complexity. We studied two dynamical states: slow-wave activity (synchronous state) and desynchronized activity, that express low and high causal complexity respectively. Progressive blockade of GABAergic inhibition during both regimes revealed its impact on the emergent cortical activity and on sPCI. Gradual GABAA receptor blockade resulted in higher synchronization, being able to drive the network from a desynchronized to a synchronous state, with a progressive decrease of complexity (sPCI). Blocking GABAB receptors also resulted in a reduced sPCI, in particular when in a synchronous, slow wave state. Our findings demonstrate that physiological levels of inhibition contribute to the generation of dynamical richness and spatiotemporal complexity. However, if inhibition is diminished or enhanced, cortical complexity decreases. Using a computational model, we explored a larger parameter space in this relationship and demonstrate a link between excitatory/inhibitory balance and the complexity expressed by the cortical network. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The spatiotemporal complexity of the activity expressed by the cerebral cortex is a highly revealing feature of the underlying network's state. Complexity varies with physiological brain states: it is higher during awake than during sleep states. But it also informs about pathologic states: in disorders of consciousness, complexity is lower in an unresponsive wakefulness syndrome than in a minimally conscious state. What are the network parameters that modulate complexity? Here we investigate how inhibition, mediated by either GABAA or GABAA receptors, influences cortical complexity. And we do this departing from two extreme functional states: a highly synchronous, slow-wave state, and a desynchronized one that mimics wakefulness. We find that there is an optimal level of inhibition in which complexity is highest.

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