, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 283-296,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Sep 2008

Population based models of cortical drug response: insights from anaesthesia


A great explanatory gap lies between the molecular pharmacology of psychoactive agents and the neurophysiological changes they induce, as recorded by neuroimaging modalities. Causally relating the cellular actions of psychoactive compounds to their influence on population activity is experimentally challenging. Recent developments in the dynamical modelling of neural tissue have attempted to span this explanatory gap between microscopic targets and their macroscopic neurophysiological effects via a range of biologically plausible dynamical models of cortical tissue. Such theoretical models allow exploration of neural dynamics, in particular their modification by drug action. The ability to theoretically bridge scales is due to a biologically plausible averaging of cortical tissue properties. In the resulting macroscopic neural field, individual neurons need not be explicitly represented (as in neural networks). The following paper aims to provide a non-technical introduction to the mean field population modelling of drug action and its recent successes in modelling anaesthesia.