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J Comput Neurosci. 2014 Dec;37(3):417-37. doi: 10.1007/s10827-014-0512-x. Epub 2014 Jul 1.

Study of GABAergic extra-synaptic tonic inhibition in single neurons and neural populations by traversing neural scales: application to propofol-induced anaesthesia.

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INRIA Grand Est - Nancy, Team NEUROSYS, 615 rue du Jardin Botanique, 54602, Villers-les-Nancy, France,


Anaesthetic agents are known to affect extra-synaptic GABAergic receptors, which induce tonic inhibitory currents. Since these receptors are very sensitive to small concentrations of agents, they are supposed to play an important role in the underlying neural mechanism of general anaesthesia. Moreover anaesthetic agents modulate the encephalographic activity (EEG) of subjects and hence show an effect on neural populations. To understand better the tonic inhibition effect in single neurons on neural populations and hence how it affects the EEG, the work considers single neurons and neural populations in a steady-state and studies numerically and analytically the modulation of their firing rate and nonlinear gain with respect to different levels of tonic inhibition. We consider populations of both type-I (Leaky Integrate-and-Fire model) and type-II (Morris-Lecar model) neurons. To bridge the single neuron description to the population description analytically, a recently proposed statistical approach is employed which allows to derive new analytical expressions for the population firing rate for type-I neurons. In addition, the work shows the derivation of a novel transfer function for type-I neurons as considered in neural mass models and studies briefly the interaction of synaptic and extra-synaptic inhibition. We reveal a strong subtractive and divisive effect of tonic inhibition in type-I neurons, i.e. a shift of the firing rate to higher excitation levels accompanied by a change of the nonlinear gain. Tonic inhibition shortens the excitation window of type-II neurons and their populations while maintaining the nonlinear gain. The gained results are interpreted in the context of recent experimental findings under propofol-induced anaesthesia.

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