ongoing research

Inhibition, population coupling, behavior, and Rett syndrome

Published in PNASPublished in Nature Communications.  We use 3D motion capture to measure body movement and 32 channel chronic electrode implants to record single unit activity in primary motor cortex.  We also impose pharmacological changes to inhibition.  We found that neurons that are strongly coupled to ongoing cortical activity are weakly coupled to body movements, and vice versa.  This relationship may be disrupted in Rett syndrome.  Funded by National Institutes of Health, Foundational Questions Institute and Arkansas Bioscience Institute.

Criticality and behavior

Published in eLifeWe have found a strong link between criticality and behavior.  Both behavioral dynamics and neural dynamics are scale-free. Individual neuronal avalanches are strongly correlated with specific behavioral events. To see this relationship, one must examine specific subsets of neurons.  Funded by National Science Foundation.  

Mechanisms of retronasal olfaction

Published in PLoS Comp BiolPublished in iScienceWe perform recordings of many single neurons in olfactory bulb and piriform cortex as odorants are inhaled (orthonasal) and exhaled  (retronasal).  We aim to determine new coding principles that distinguish retro and orthonasal olfaction.  We also perform micro CT imaging of rat nasal cavities and computer modeling of fluid flow and neural network models. This is a collaboration with Cheng Ly (VCU) and Andrea Barreiro (SMU). Supported by National Science Foundation and Arkansas Bioscience Institute.

selected publications

Fontenele, A. J., Sooter, J. S., Norman, V. K., Gautam, S. H. & Shew, W. L. Low-dimensional criticality embedded in high-dimensional awake brain dynamics. Sci. Adv. 10, 1–12 (2024).

A. J. Fontenele, A. K. Barreiro, C. Ly, P. C. Raju, S. H. Gautam, W. L. Shew, Sensory input to cortex encoded on low-dimensional periphery-correlated subspaces. PNAS Nexus. 3, 1–10 (2023).

Jones SA, Barfield JH, Norman VK, Shew WL. 2023. Scale-free behavioral dynamics directly linked with scale-free cortical dynamics. Elife 12. 

Li, J., Kells, P. A., Osgood, A. C., Gautam, S. H., & Shew, W. L. (2021). Collapse of complexity of brain and body activity due to excessive inhibition and MeCP2 disruption. PNAS, 118(43), e2106378118. 

Ly, C., Barreiro, A. K., Gautam, S. H., & Shew, W. L. (2021). Odor-evoked increases in olfactory bulb mitral cell spiking variability. iScience, 24(9), 102946. 

Li, J., & Shew, W. L. (2020). Tuning network dynamics from criticality to an asynchronous state. PLOS Computational Biology, 16(9), e1008268. 

Kells, P. A., Gautam, S. H., Fakhraei, L., Li, J. & Shew, W. L. Strong neuron-to-body coupling implies weak neuron-to-neuron coupling in motor cortex. Nature Commun. 10, 1575 (2019).

Agrawal, V., Chakraborty, S., Knöpfel, T. & Shew, W. L. Scale-change symmetry in the rules governing neural systems. iScience 121–131 (2019). 

Clawson, W. P., Wright, N. C., Wessel, R. & Shew, W. L. Adaptation towards scale-free dynamics improves cortical stimulus discrimination at the cost of reduced detection. PLOS Comput. Biol. 13, e1005574 (2017).

Fagerholm, E. D. et al. Cortical Entropy, Mutual Information and Scale-Free Dynamics in Waking Mice. Cereb. Cortex 1–8 (2016). 

Shew, W. L. et al. Adaptation to sensory input tunes visual cortex to criticality. Nature Phys. 11, 659–663 (2015).

Gautam, S. H., Hoang, T. T., McClanahan, K., Grady, S. K. & Shew, W. L. Maximizing Sensory Dynamic Range by Tuning the Cortical State to Criticality. PLOS Comput. Biol. 11, e1004576 (2015).

Scott, G. et al. Voltage Imaging of Waking Mouse Cortex Reveals Emergence of Critical Neuronal Dynamics. J. Neurosci. 34, 16611–16620 (2014).

Larremore, D. B., Shew, W. L., Ott, E., Sorrentino, F. & Restrepo, J. G. Inhibition Causes Ceaseless Dynamics in Networks of Excitable Nodes. Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 138103 (2014).

Shew, W. L. & Plenz, D. The functional benefits of criticality in the cortex. Neuroscientist 19, 88–100 (2013).

Larremore, D. B., Shew, W. L. & Restrepo, J. G. Predicting Criticality and Dynamic Range in Complex Networks: Effects of Topology. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 1–4 (2011).

Shew, W. L., Yang, H., Yu, S., Roy, R. & Plenz, D. Information Capacity and Transmission Are Maximized in Balanced Cortical Networks with Neuronal Avalanches. J. Neurosci. 31, 55–63 (2011).

Shew, W. L., Yang, H., Petermann, T., Roy, R. & Plenz, D. Neuronal Avalanches Imply Maximum Dynamic Range in Cortical Networks at Criticality. J. Neurosci. 29, 15595–15600 (2009).

lab members

Woodrow L. Shew

Associate ProfPubmed  Google ScholarCurriculum Vitae

Shree Hari Gautam

PostdocCurriculum Vitae

Kindler Norman

PhD Student

J. Sam Sooter

Undergrad student

Antonio J. Fontenele

PostdocCurriculum Vitae

Jacob H. Barfield

PhD Student

Prashant Raju

PhD Student


Anesthetized rat simultaneous recordings of many single units in olfactory bulb and piriform cortex.  Available here

Awake rat motor cortex single unit activity and body motion tracking data.  Available here.

Anesthetized rat somatosensory cortex recordings during whisker stimulation. Available here.

Ex vivo turtle visual cortex recordings during visual stimulation.  Available here.

    more publications...