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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Dec;98(6):3450-60. Epub 2007 Oct 3.

Sustained rhythmic activity in gap-junctionally coupled networks of model neurons depends on the diameter of coupled dendrites.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.


Gap junctions are known to be important for many network functions such as synchronization of activity and the generation of waves and oscillations. Gap junctions have also been proposed to be essential for the generation of early embryonic activity. We have previously shown that the amplitude of electrical signals propagating across gap-junctionally coupled passive cables is maximized at a unique diameter. This suggests that threshold-dependent signals may propagate through gap junctions for a finite range of diameters around this optimal value. Here we examine the diameter dependence of action potential propagation across model networks of dendro-dendritically coupled neurons. The neurons in these models have passive soma and dendrites and an action potential-generating axon. We show that propagation of action potentials across gap junctions occurs only over a finite range of dendritic diameters and that propagation delay depends on this diameter. Additionally, in networks of gap-junctionally coupled neurons, rhythmic activity can emerge when closed loops (re-entrant paths) occur but again only for a finite range of dendrite diameters. The frequency of such rhythmic activity depends on the length of the path and the dendrite diameter. For large networks of randomly coupled neurons, we find that the re-entrant paths that underlie rhythmic activity also depend on dendrite diameter. These results underline the potential importance of dendrite diameter as a determinant of network activity in gap-junctionally coupled networks, such as network rhythms that are observed during early nervous system development.

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