Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Wave propagation of cortical population activity under urethane anesthesia is state dependent

Tim Wanger1, Kentaroh Takagaki (高垣堅太郎)1*, Michael T Lippert1, Jürgen Goldschmidt12 and Frank W Ohl123

Author Affiliations

1 Leibniz-Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, 39118, Germany

2 Otto-von-Guericke-University, Magdeburg, 39106, Germany

3 Center for Behavioral Brain Science (CBBS), Magdeburg, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-78

Published: 31 July 2013



Propagating waves of excitation have been observed extensively in the neocortex, during both spontaneous and sensory-evoked activity, and they play a critical role in spatially organizing information processing. However, the state-dependence of these spatiotemporal propagation patterns is largely unexplored. In this report, we use voltage-sensitive dye imaging in the rat visual cortex to study the propagation of spontaneous population activity in two discrete cortical states induced by urethane anesthesia.


While laminar current source density patterns of spontaneous population events in these two states indicate a considerable degree of similarity in laminar networks, lateral propagation in the more active desynchronized state is approximately 20% faster than in the slower synchronized state. Furthermore, trajectories of wave propagation exhibit a strong anisotropy, but the preferred direction is different depending on cortical state.


Our results show that horizontal wave propagation of spontaneous neural activity is largely dependent on the global activity states of local cortical circuits.

Traveling wave; Wave propagation; Cortex; State-dependence; Voltage-sensitive dye imaging; Urethane; Current source density; Rat visual cortex