Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Microelectronics-Photonics (PhD)

Degree Level





Woodrow Shew

Committee Member

Julie Stenken

Second Committee Member

Nate Parks

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey Wolchok

Fourth Committee Member

Rick Wise


Acetylcholine, Microdialysis Probe, Microelectrode Array, Neuroscience, Rat Barrel Cortex


The neuronal network in cerebral cortex is a dynamic system that can undergo changes in collective neural activity as the organism changes its behavior. For example, during sleep and quiet restful awake state, many neurons tend to fire together in synchrony. In contrast, during alert awake states, firing patterns of neurons tend to be more asynchronous, firing more independently. These changes in population-level synchrony are defined as changes in cortical state. Response to sensory input is state-dependent, i.e., change in cortical state can impact the sensory information processing in cortex and introduce trial-to-trial variability in response to the same repeated stimuli. How the brain maintains reliable perception in spite of such trial-to-trial variability is a longstanding important question in neuroscience research. This dissertation is centered on two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that different parts of the cortex can be in different states simultaneously. The second hypothesis is that inhomogeneity in cortical states can benefit the system by enabling the cortical network to maintain reliable sensory detection. If one part of the system is in a state that is not good for detection, then another part of the system could be in a different state that is good for detection, thus compensating and maintaining good detection for the system as a whole. These hypotheses were tested on anesthetized rats and awake mice. In anesthetized rats, cholinergic neuromodulation via microdialysis (μD) probes was used to induce cortical state changes in the somatosensory barrel cortex. Changes in cortical state and response to whisker stimulus was recorded with a microelectrode array (MEA). In awake mice, nucleus basalis was optogenetically stimulated by inserting an optic fiber in basal forebrain and response to visual stimulus was analyzed. The results demonstrated heterogeneity in cortical state across the spatial extent of cortical network. Changes in sensory response followed this heterogeneity and sensory detection was not reliable at the level of single neurons or small regions of cortex. The greater population of neurons, on the other hand, maintained reliable sensory detection, suggesting that heterogeneous state can be functionally beneficial for the cortical network.