Differences in the expression of cortex-wide neural dynamics are related to behavioral phenotype

Camden J. MacDowell, Brandy A. Briones, Michael J. Lenzi, Morgan L. Gustison, Timothy J. Buschman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behavior differs across individuals, ranging from typical to atypical phenotypes.1 Understanding how differences in behavior relate to differences in neural activity is critical for developing treatments of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. One hypothesis is that differences in behavior reflect individual differences in the dynamics of how information flows through the brain. In support of this, the correlation of neural activity between brain areas, termed “functional connectivity,” varies across individuals2 and is disrupted in autism,3 schizophrenia,4 and depression.5 However, the changes in neural activity that underlie altered behavior and functional connectivity remain unclear. Here, we show that individual differences in the expression of different patterns of cortical neural dynamics explain variability in both functional connectivity and behavior. Using mesoscale imaging, we recorded neural activity across the dorsal cortex of behaviorally “typical” and “atypical” mice. All mice shared the same recurring cortex-wide spatiotemporal motifs of neural activity, and these motifs explained the large majority of variance in cortical activity (>75%). However, individuals differed in how frequently different motifs were expressed. These differences in motif expression explained differences in functional connectivity and behavior across both typical and atypical mice. Our results suggest that differences in behavior and functional connectivity are due to changes in the processes that select which pattern of neural activity is expressed at each moment in time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1333-1340.e6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 25 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • calcium imaging
  • cerebral cortex
  • cognitive control
  • functional connectivity
  • mouse
  • neural dynamics
  • valproic acid
  • widefield imaging


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