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Curr Biol. 2013 Jun 3;23(11):963-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.030. Epub 2013 May 23.

A gap junction circuit enhances processing of coincident mechanosensory inputs.

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Cell Biology Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Francis Crick Avenue, Cambridge CB2 0QH, UK.


Electrical synapses have been shown to be important for enabling and detecting neuronal synchrony in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Hub-and-spoke circuits, in which a central hub neuron is electrically coupled to several input neurons, are an overrepresented motif in the C. elegans nervous system and may represent a conserved functional unit. The functional relevance of this configuration has been demonstrated for circuits mediating aggregation behavior and nose touch perception. Modeling approaches have been useful for understanding structurally and dynamically more complex electrical circuits. Therefore, we formulated a simple analytical model with minimal assumptions to obtain insight into the properties of the hub-and-spoke microcircuit motif. A key prediction of the model is that an active input neuron should facilitate activity throughout the network, whereas an inactive input should suppress network activity through shunting; this prediction was supported by cell ablation and in vivo neuroimaging experiments in the C. elegans nose touch circuit. Thus, the hub-and-spoke architecture may implement an analog coincidence detector enabling distinct responses to distributed and localized patterns of sensory input.

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