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Brains are composed of anatomically and functionally distinct regions performing specialized tasks, but regions do not operate in isolation. Orchestration of complex behaviors requires communication between brain regions, but how neural dynamics are organized to facilitate reliable transmission is not well understood. Here we studied this process directly by generating neural activity that propagates between brain regions and drives behavior, assessing how neural populations in sensory cortex cooperate to transmit information. We achieved this by imaging two densely interconnected regions-the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex (S1 and S2)-in mice while performing two-photon photostimulation of S1 neurons and assigning behavioral salience to the photostimulation. We found that the probability of perception is determined not only by the strength of the photostimulation but also by the variability of S1 neural activity. Therefore, maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio of the stimulus representation in cortex relative to the noise or variability is critical to facilitate activity propagation and perception.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Neurosci

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