Cortical slow oscillations (SO) of neural activity spontaneously emerge and propagate during deep sleep and anesthesia and are also expressed in isolated brain slices and cortical slabs. We lack full understanding of how SO integrate the different structural levels underlying local excitability of cell assemblies and their mutual interaction. Here, we focus on ongoing slow waves (SWs) in cortical slices reconstructed from a 16-electrode array designed to probe the neuronal activity at multiple spatial scales. In spite of the variable propagation patterns observed, we reproducibly found a smooth strip of loci leading the SW fronts, overlapping cortical layers 4 and 5, along which Up states were the longest and displayed the highest firing rate. Propagation modes were uncorrelated in time, signaling a memoryless generation of SWs. All these features could be modeled by a multimodular large-scale network of spiking neurons with a specific balance between local and intermodular connectivity. Modules work as relaxation oscillators with a weakly stable Down state and a peak of local excitability to model layers 4 and 5. These conditions allow for both optimal sensitivity to the network structure and richness of propagation modes, both of which are potential substrates for dynamic flexibility in more general contexts.
- Computational Physics