On the dynamics of cortical development: synchrony and synaptic self-organisation

James Wright1,2 and Paul Bourke3

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, doi: 10.3389/fncom.2013.00004

1Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
2Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
3iVEC@UWA, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.


We describe a model for cortical development that resolves long-standing difficulties of earlier models. It is proposed that, during embryonic development, synchronous firing of neurons and their competition for limited metabolic resources leads to selection of an array of neurons with ultra-small-world characteristics. Consequently, in the visual cortex, macrocolumns linked by superficial patchy connections emerge in anatomically realistic patterns, with an ante-natal arrangement which projects signals from the surrounding cortex onto each macrocolumn in a form analogous to the projection of a Euclidean plane onto a Möbius strip. This configuration reproduces typical cortical response maps, and simulations of signal flow explain cortical responses to moving lines as functions of stimulus velocity, length and orientation. With the introduction of direct visual inputs, under the operation of Hebbian learning, development of mature selective response “tuning” to stimuli of given orientation, spatial frequency and temporal frequency would then take place, overwriting the earlier ante-natal configuration. The model is provisionally extended to hierarchical interactions of the visual cortex with higher centres, and a general principle for cortical processing of spatio-temporal images is sketched.


Synchronous oscillation, cortical development, synaptic organization, cortical response properties, cortical information flow.

Pre-Press manuscript (pdf)