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J Theor Biol. 2008 Aug 7;253(3):452-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2008.04.016. Epub 2008 Apr 26.

Pacemaker and network mechanisms of rhythm generation: cooperation and competition.

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Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The origin of rhythmic activity in brain circuits and CPG-like motor networks is still not fully understood. The main unsolved questions are (i) What are the respective roles of intrinsic bursting and network based dynamics in systems of coupled heterogeneous, intrinsically complex, even chaotic, neurons? (ii) What are the mechanisms underlying the coexistence of robustness and flexibility in the observed rhythmic spatio-temporal patterns? One common view is that particular bursting neurons provide the rhythmogenic component while the connections between different neurons are responsible for the regularisation and synchronisation of groups of neurons and for specific phase relationships in multi-phasic patterns. We have examined the spatio-temporal rhythmic patterns in computer-simulated motif networks of H-H neurons connected by slow inhibitory synapses with a non-symmetric pattern of coupling strengths. We demonstrate that the interplay between intrinsic and network dynamics features either cooperation or competition, depending on three basic control parameters identified in our model: the shape of intrinsic bursts, the strength of the coupling and its degree of asymmetry. The cooperation of intrinsic dynamics and network mechanisms is shown to correlate with bistability, i.e., the coexistence of two different attractors in the phase space of the system corresponding to different rhythmic spatio-temporal patterns. Conversely, if the network mechanism of rhythmogenesis dominates, monostability is observed with a typical pattern of winnerless competition between neurons. We analyse bifurcations between the two regimes and demonstrate how they provide robustness and flexibility to the network performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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