Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 453-484

First online:

Finite-size and correlation-induced effects in mean-field dynamics

  • Jonathan D. TouboulAffiliated withNeuroMathComp Laboratory, INRIA/ENS ParisDepartment of Mathematics, University of Pittsburgh Email author 
  • , G. Bard ErmentroutAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, University of Pittsburgh

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The brain’s activity is characterized by the interaction of a very large number of neurons that are strongly affected by noise. However, signals often arise at macroscopic scales integrating the effect of many neurons into a reliable pattern of activity. In order to study such large neuronal assemblies, one is often led to derive mean-field limits summarizing the effect of the interaction of a large number of neurons into an effective signal. Classical mean-field approaches consider the evolution of a deterministic variable, the mean activity, thus neglecting the stochastic nature of neural behavior. In this article, we build upon two recent approaches that include correlations and higher order moments in mean-field equations, and study how these stochastic effects influence the solutions of the mean-field equations, both in the limit of an infinite number of neurons and for large yet finite networks. We introduce a new model, the infinite model, which arises from both equations by a rescaling of the variables and, which is invertible for finite-size networks, and hence, provides equivalent equations to those previously derived models. The study of this model allows us to understand qualitative behavior of such large-scale networks. We show that, though the solutions of the deterministic mean-field equation constitute uncorrelated solutions of the new mean-field equations, the stability properties of limit cycles are modified by the presence of correlations, and additional non-trivial behaviors including periodic orbits appear when there were none in the mean field. The origin of all these behaviors is then explored in finite-size networks where interesting mesoscopic scale effects appear. This study leads us to show that the infinite-size system appears as a singular limit of the network equations, and for any finite network, the system will differ from the infinite system.


Neural mass equations Dynamical systems Markov process Master equation Moment equations Bifurcations Wilson and Cowan system