Structured dynamics of neural activity across developing neocortex

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The cerebral cortex exhibits spontaneous and sensory evoked patterns of activity during early development that is vital for the formation and refinement of neural circuits. Identifying the source and flow of this activity locally and globally is critical for understanding principles guiding self-organization in the developing brain. Here we use whole brain transcranial optical imaging at high spatial and temporal resolution to demonstrate that dynamical patterns of neuronal activity in developing mouse neocortex consist of spatially discrete domains that are coordinated in an age, areal, and behavior- dependent fashion. Ongoing cortical activity displays mirror-symmetric activation patterns across the cerebral hemispheres and stereotyped network architectures that are shaped during development, with parietal-sensorimotor subnetworks functionally connected to occipital regions through frontal-medial cortical areas. This study provides the first broad description of population activity in the developing neocortex at a scope and scale that bridges the microscopic and macroscopic spatiotemporal resolutions provided by traditional neurophysiological and functional neuroimaging techniques. Mesoscale maps of cortical population dynamics within animal models will be crucial for future efforts to understand and treat neurodevelopmental disorders.

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