Behavior arises from the coordinated activity of numerous anatomically and functionally distinct brain regions. Modern experimental tools allow unprecedented access to large neural populations spanning many interacting regions brain-wide. Yet, understanding such large-scale datasets necessitates both scalable computational models to extract meaningful features of inter-region communication and principled theories to interpret those features. Here, we introduce Current-Based Decomposition (CURBD), an approach for inferring brain-wide interactions using data-constrained recurrent neural network models that directly reproduce experimentally-obtained neural data. CURBD leverages the functional interactions inferred by such models to reveal directional currents between multiple brain regions. We first show that CURBD accurately isolates inter-region currents in simulated networks with known dynamics. We then apply CURBD to multi-region neural recordings obtained from mice during running, macaques during Pavlovian conditioning, and humans during memory retrieval to demonstrate the widespread applicability of CURBD to untangle brain-wide interactions underlying behavior from a variety of neural datasets.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience