Networks of piecewise linear neural mass models

Rüdiger Thul
School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
Neural mass models are ubiquitous in large scale brain modelling. At the node level they are written in terms of a set of ordinary differential equations with a nonlinearity that is typically a sigmoidal shape. Using structural data from brain atlases they may be connected into a network to investigate the emergence of functional dynamic states, such as synchrony. With the simple restriction of the classic sigmoidal nonlinearity to a piecewise linear caricature we show that the famous Wilson-Cowan neural mass model can be explicitly analysed at both the node and network level. The construction of periodic orbits at the node level is achieved by patching together matrix exponential solutions, and stability is determined using Floquet theory. For networks with interactions described by circulant matrices, we show that the stability of the synchronous state can be determined in terms of a low-dimensional Floquet problem parameterised by the eigenvalues of the interaction matrix. Moreover, this network Floquet problem is readily solved using linear algebra, to predict the onset of spatio-temporal network patterns arising from a synchronous instability. We further consider the case of a discontinuous choice for the node nonlinearity, namely the replacement of the sigmoid by a Heaviside nonlinearity. This gives rise to a continuous-time switching network. The stability of a periodic orbit is now treated with a modification of Floquet theory to treat the evolution of small perturbations through switching manifolds via the use of saltation matrices. At the network level the stability analysis of the synchronous state is considerably more challenging.