Spontaneous and sensory-evoked cortical activity is highly state-dependent, yet relatively little is known about transitions between distinct waking states. Patterns of activity in mouse V1 differ dramatically between quiescence and locomotion, but this difference could be explained by either motor feedback or a change in arousal levels. We recorded single cells and local field potentials from area V1 in mice head-fixed on a running wheel and monitored pupil diameter to assay arousal. Using naturally occurring and induced state transitions, we dissociated arousal and locomotion effects in V1. Arousal suppressed spontaneous firing and strongly altered the temporal patterning of population activity. Moreover, heightened arousal increased the signal-to-noise ratio of visual responses and reduced noise correlations. In contrast, increased firing in anticipation of and during movement was attributable to locomotion effects. Our findings suggest complementary roles of arousal and locomotion in promoting functional flexibility in cortical circuits. Video Abstract: Spontaneous and sensory-evoked brain activity varies with behavior, but the contributions of arousal state and motor activity to these changes remain unclear. Vinck etal. identify separate roles of arousal and locomotion in regulating sensory processing in visual cortex.
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