Weak electrical inputs to the brain in vivo using transcranial electrical stimulation or in isolated cortex in vitro can affect the dynamics of the underlying neural populations. However, it is poorly understood what the exact mechanisms are that modulate the activity of neural populations as a whole and why the responses are so diverse in stimulation experiments. Despite this, electrical stimulation techniques are being developed for the treatment of neurological diseases in humans. To better understand these interactions, it is often necessary to simulate and analyze very large networks of neurons, which can be computationally demanding. In this theoretical paper, we present a reduced model of coupled neural populations that represents a piece of cortical tissue. This efficient model retains the dynamical properties of the large network of neurons it is based on while being several orders of magnitude faster to simulate. Due to the biophysical properties of the neuron model, an electric field can be coupled to the population. We show that weak electric fields often used in stimulation experiments can lead to entrainment of neural oscillations on the population level, and argue that the responses critically depend on the dynamical state of the neural system.
Cakan C, Obermayer K (2020) PLoS Comput Biol 16:e1007822 [PubMed]