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Cortical computations via metastable activity


Metastable brain dynamics are characterized by transient, variable modulations so
that the neural activity on single trials appears to unfold as a sequence of distinct,
quasi-stationary ‘states’. Metastable activity occurs both in response to an external
stimulus and during ongoing, self-generated activity. These spontaneous metastable
states are increasingly found to subserve internal representations that are not locked
to external triggers, including states of deliberation, attention and expectation.
Importantly, since coding stimuli or decisions via metastable states can be carried
out trial-by-trial, focusing on metastability allows to shift the perspective on neural
coding from traditional concepts based on trial-averaging to models based on
dynamic ensemble representations in single trials.

In this workshop, we bring together experimental and theoretical perspectives on
metastable activity. We will compare and contrast models of discrete metastable
states and models of continuous transient trajectories, and discuss emerging data
analysis methods for testing these alternative scenarios. The dialogue between
theory and experiment will elucidate how metastable dynamics may arise in
biologically realistic scenarios, and their potential role for representing internal states
as well as relevant task variables in rodents, primates and humans.

Tentative schedule