Cortical neural dynamics organizes over multiple anatomical and temporal scales. The mechanistic origin of the temporal organization and its contribution to cognition remain unknown. Here we demonstrate that a temporal signature (autocorrelogram time constant and latency) of neural activity enlightens this organization. In monkey frontal areas, recorded during flexible cognitive decisions, temporal signatures display highly specific area-dependent ranges, as well as anatomical and cell-type distributions. Moreover, temporal signatures are functionally adapted to behaviorally relevant timescales. Fine-grained biophysical network models, constrained to account for temporal signatures, reveal that after-hyperpolarization potassium and inhibitory GABA-B conductances critically determine areas specificity. They mechanistically account for temporal signatures by organizing activity into metastable states, with inhibition controlling state stability and transitions. As predicted by models, state durations non-linearly scale with temporal signatures in monkey, matching behavioral timescales. Thus, local inhibitory-controlled metastability constitutes the dynamical core specifying the temporal organization of cognitive functions in frontal areas.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience