Neurophysiologically-informed markers of individual variability and pharmacological manipulation of human cortical gamma
The ability to quantify synaptic function at the level of cortical microcircuits from non-invasive data would be enormously useful in the study of neuronal processing in humans and the pathophysiology that attends many neuropsychiatric disorders. Here, we provide proof of principle that one can estimate inter-and intra-laminar interactions among specific neuronal populations using induced gamma responses in the visual cortex of human subjects – using dynamic causal modelling based upon the canonical microcircuit (CMC; a simplistic model of a cortical column). Using variability in induced (spectral) responses over a large cohort of normal subjects, we find that the predominant determinants of gamma responses rest on recurrent and intrinsic connections between superficial pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons. Furthermore, variations in beta responses were mediated by inter-subject differences in the intrinsic connections between deep pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons. Interestingly, we also show that increasing the self-inhibition of superficial pyramidal cells suppresses the amplitude of gamma activity, while increasing its peak frequency. This systematic and nonlinear relationship was only disclosed by modelling the causes of induced responses. Crucially, we were able to validate this form of neurophysiological phenotyping by showing a selective effect of the GABA re-uptake inhibitor tiagabine on the rate constants of inhibitory interneurons. Remarkably, we were able to recover the pharmacodynamics of this effect over the course of several hours on a per subject basis. These findings speak to the possibility of measuring population specific synaptic function – and its response to pharmacological intervention – to provide subject-specific biomarkers of mesoscopic neuronal processes using non-invasive data. Finally, our results demonstrate that, using the CMC as a proxy, the synaptic mechanisms that underlie the gain control of neuronal message passing within and between different levels of cortical hierarchies may now be amenable to quantitative study using non-invasive (MEG) procedures.