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1.  Predicting the Responses of Repetitively Firing Neurons to Current Noise 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(5):e1003612.
We used phase resetting methods to predict firing patterns of rat subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons when their rhythmic firing was densely perturbed by noise. We applied sequences of contiguous brief (0.5–2 ms) current pulses with amplitudes drawn from a Gaussian distribution (10–100 pA standard deviation) to autonomously firing STN neurons in slices. Current noise sequences increased the variability of spike times with little or no effect on the average firing rate. We measured the infinitesimal phase resetting curve (PRC) for each neuron using a noise-based method. A phase model consisting of only a firing rate and PRC was very accurate at predicting spike timing, accounting for more than 80% of spike time variance and reliably reproducing the spike-to-spike pattern of irregular firing. An approximation for the evolution of phase was used to predict the effect of firing rate and noise parameters on spike timing variability. It quantitatively predicted changes in variability of interspike intervals with variation in noise amplitude, pulse duration and firing rate over the normal range of STN spontaneous rates. When constant current was used to drive the cells to higher rates, the PRC was altered in size and shape and accurate predictions of the effects of noise relied on incorporating these changes into the prediction. Application of rate-neutral changes in conductance showed that changes in PRC shape arise from conductance changes known to accompany rate increases in STN neurons, rather than the rate increases themselves. Our results show that firing patterns of densely perturbed oscillators cannot readily be distinguished from those of neurons randomly excited to fire from the rest state. The spike timing of repetitively firing neurons may be quantitatively predicted from the input and their PRCs, even when they are so densely perturbed that they no longer fire rhythmically.
Author Summary
Most neurons receive thousands of synaptic inputs per second. Each of these may be individually weak but collectively they shape the temporal pattern of firing by the postsynaptic neuron. If the postsynaptic neuron fires repetitively, its synaptic inputs need not directly trigger action potentials, but may instead control the timing of action potentials that would occur anyway. The phase resetting curve encapsulates the influence of an input on the timing of the next action potential, depending on its time of arrival. We measured the phase resetting curves of neurons in the subthalamic nucleus and used them to accurately predict the timing of action potentials in a phase model subjected to complex input patterns. A simple approximation to the phase model accurately predicted the changes in firing pattern evoked by dense patterns of noise pulses varying in amplitude and pulse duration, and by changes in firing rate. We also showed that the phase resetting curve changes systematically with changes in total neuron conductance, and doing so predicts corresponding changes in firing pattern. Our results indicate that the phase model may accurately represent the temporal integration of complex patterns of input to repetitively firing neurons.
PMCID: PMC4014400  PMID: 24809636
2.  Cellularly-Driven Differences in Network Synchronization Propensity Are Differentially Modulated by Firing Frequency 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(5):e1002062.
Spatiotemporal pattern formation in neuronal networks depends on the interplay between cellular and network synchronization properties. The neuronal phase response curve (PRC) is an experimentally obtainable measure that characterizes the cellular response to small perturbations, and can serve as an indicator of cellular propensity for synchronization. Two broad classes of PRCs have been identified for neurons: Type I, in which small excitatory perturbations induce only advances in firing, and Type II, in which small excitatory perturbations can induce both advances and delays in firing. Interestingly, neuronal PRCs are usually attenuated with increased spiking frequency, and Type II PRCs typically exhibit a greater attenuation of the phase delay region than of the phase advance region. We found that this phenomenon arises from an interplay between the time constants of active ionic currents and the interspike interval. As a result, excitatory networks consisting of neurons with Type I PRCs responded very differently to frequency modulation compared to excitatory networks composed of neurons with Type II PRCs. Specifically, increased frequency induced a sharp decrease in synchrony of networks of Type II neurons, while frequency increases only minimally affected synchrony in networks of Type I neurons. These results are demonstrated in networks in which both types of neurons were modeled generically with the Morris-Lecar model, as well as in networks consisting of Hodgkin-Huxley-based model cortical pyramidal cells in which simulated effects of acetylcholine changed PRC type. These results are robust to different network structures, synaptic strengths and modes of driving neuronal activity, and they indicate that Type I and Type II excitatory networks may display two distinct modes of processing information.
Author Summary
Synchronization of the firing of neurons in the brain is related to many cognitive functions, such as recognizing faces, discriminating odors, and coordinating movement. It is therefore important to understand what properties of neuronal networks promote synchrony of neural firing. One measure that is often used to determine the contribution of individual neurons to network synchrony is called the phase response curve (PRC). PRCs describe how the timing of neuronal firing changes depending on when input, such as a synaptic signal, is received by the neuron. A characteristic of PRCs that has previously not been well understood is that they change dramatically as the neuron's firing frequency is modulated. This effect carries potential significance, since cognitive functions are often associated with specific frequencies of network activity in the brain. We showed computationally that the frequency dependence of PRCs can be explained by the relative timing of ionic membrane currents with respect to the time between spike firings. Our simulations also showed that the frequency dependence of neuronal PRCs leads to frequency-dependent changes in network synchronization that can be different for different neuron types. These results further our understanding of how synchronization is generated in the brain to support various cognitive functions.
PMCID: PMC3098201  PMID: 21625571
3.  Impact of Adaptation Currents on Synchronization of Coupled Exponential Integrate-and-Fire Neurons 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(4):e1002478.
The ability of spiking neurons to synchronize their activity in a network depends on the response behavior of these neurons as quantified by the phase response curve (PRC) and on coupling properties. The PRC characterizes the effects of transient inputs on spike timing and can be measured experimentally. Here we use the adaptive exponential integrate-and-fire (aEIF) neuron model to determine how subthreshold and spike-triggered slow adaptation currents shape the PRC. Based on that, we predict how synchrony and phase locked states of coupled neurons change in presence of synaptic delays and unequal coupling strengths. We find that increased subthreshold adaptation currents cause a transition of the PRC from only phase advances to phase advances and delays in response to excitatory perturbations. Increased spike-triggered adaptation currents on the other hand predominantly skew the PRC to the right. Both adaptation induced changes of the PRC are modulated by spike frequency, being more prominent at lower frequencies. Applying phase reduction theory, we show that subthreshold adaptation stabilizes synchrony for pairs of coupled excitatory neurons, while spike-triggered adaptation causes locking with a small phase difference, as long as synaptic heterogeneities are negligible. For inhibitory pairs synchrony is stable and robust against conduction delays, and adaptation can mediate bistability of in-phase and anti-phase locking. We further demonstrate that stable synchrony and bistable in/anti-phase locking of pairs carry over to synchronization and clustering of larger networks. The effects of adaptation in aEIF neurons on PRCs and network dynamics qualitatively reflect those of biophysical adaptation currents in detailed Hodgkin-Huxley-based neurons, which underscores the utility of the aEIF model for investigating the dynamical behavior of networks. Our results suggest neuronal spike frequency adaptation as a mechanism synchronizing low frequency oscillations in local excitatory networks, but indicate that inhibition rather than excitation generates coherent rhythms at higher frequencies.
Author Summary
Synchronization of neuronal spiking in the brain is related to cognitive functions, such as perception, attention, and memory. It is therefore important to determine which properties of neurons influence their collective behavior in a network and to understand how. A prominent feature of many cortical neurons is spike frequency adaptation, which is caused by slow transmembrane currents. We investigated how these adaptation currents affect the synchronization tendency of coupled model neurons. Using the efficient adaptive exponential integrate-and-fire (aEIF) model and a biophysically detailed neuron model for validation, we found that increased adaptation currents promote synchronization of coupled excitatory neurons at lower spike frequencies, as long as the conduction delays between the neurons are negligible. Inhibitory neurons on the other hand synchronize in presence of conduction delays, with or without adaptation currents. Our results emphasize the utility of the aEIF model for computational studies of neuronal network dynamics. We conclude that adaptation currents provide a mechanism to generate low frequency oscillations in local populations of excitatory neurons, while faster rhythms seem to be caused by inhibition rather than excitation.
PMCID: PMC3325187  PMID: 22511861
4.  On the Firing Rate Dependency of the Phase Response Curve of Rat Purkinje Neurons In Vitro 
PLoS Computational Biology  2015;11(3):e1004112.
Synchronous spiking during cerebellar tasks has been observed across Purkinje cells: however, little is known about the intrinsic cellular mechanisms responsible for its initiation, cessation and stability. The Phase Response Curve (PRC), a simple input-output characterization of single cells, can provide insights into individual and collective properties of neurons and networks, by quantifying the impact of an infinitesimal depolarizing current pulse on the time of occurrence of subsequent action potentials, while a neuron is firing tonically. Recently, the PRC theory applied to cerebellar Purkinje cells revealed that these behave as phase-independent integrators at low firing rates, and switch to a phase-dependent mode at high rates. Given the implications for computation and information processing in the cerebellum and the possible role of synchrony in the communication with its post-synaptic targets, we further explored the firing rate dependency of the PRC in Purkinje cells. We isolated key factors for the experimental estimation of the PRC and developed a closed-loop approach to reliably compute the PRC across diverse firing rates in the same cell. Our results show unambiguously that the PRC of individual Purkinje cells is firing rate dependent and that it smoothly transitions from phase independent integrator to a phase dependent mode. Using computational models we show that neither channel noise nor a realistic cell morphology are responsible for the rate dependent shift in the phase response curve.
Author Summary
The phase response curve (PRC) quantifies the effect of an infinitesimal perturbation on the phase of an oscillator, be it mechanical, electronic or biological. In the particular case of neurons, PRCs can be employed to infer several network properties that are influenced by intrinsic membrane mechanisms. It has been shown that the PRC of tonically firing Purkinje Cells is flat at low firing rates, which has profound implications for information processing in the cerebellum. Here, we propose a novel method to estimate the PRC of single Purkinje cells at various firing rates and use it to unveil the smooth transition between flat and phasic PRC. Furthermore, we address potential explanations for the observed transition using computational modeling.
PMCID: PMC4361458  PMID: 25775448
5.  Short Conduction Delays Cause Inhibition Rather than Excitation to Favor Synchrony in Hybrid Neuronal Networks of the Entorhinal Cortex 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(1):e1002306.
How stable synchrony in neuronal networks is sustained in the presence of conduction delays is an open question. The Dynamic Clamp was used to measure phase resetting curves (PRCs) for entorhinal cortical cells, and then to construct networks of two such neurons. PRCs were in general Type I (all advances or all delays) or weakly type II with a small region at early phases with the opposite type of resetting. We used previously developed theoretical methods based on PRCs under the assumption of pulsatile coupling to predict the delays that synchronize these hybrid circuits. For excitatory coupling, synchrony was predicted and observed only with no delay and for delays greater than half a network period that cause each neuron to receive an input late in its firing cycle and almost immediately fire an action potential. Synchronization for these long delays was surprisingly tight and robust to the noise and heterogeneity inherent in a biological system. In contrast to excitatory coupling, inhibitory coupling led to antiphase for no delay, very short delays and delays close to a network period, but to near-synchrony for a wide range of relatively short delays. PRC-based methods show that conduction delays can stabilize synchrony in several ways, including neutralizing a discontinuity introduced by strong inhibition, favoring synchrony in the case of noisy bistability, and avoiding an initial destabilizing region of a weakly type II PRC. PRCs can identify optimal conduction delays favoring synchronization at a given frequency, and also predict robustness to noise and heterogeneity.
Author Summary
Individual oscillators, such as pendulum-based clocks and fireflies, can spontaneously organize into a coherent, synchronized entity with a common frequency. Neurons can oscillate under some circumstances, and can synchronize their firing both within and across brain regions. Synchronized assemblies of neurons are thought to underlie cognitive functions such as recognition, recall, perception and attention. Pathological synchrony can lead to epilepsy, tremor and other dynamical diseases, and synchronization is altered in most mental disorders. Biological neurons synchronize despite conduction delays, heterogeneous circuit composition, and noise. In biological experiments, we built simple networks in which two living neurons could interact via a computer in real time. The computer precisely controlled the nature of the connectivity and the length of the communication delays. We characterized the synchronization tendencies of individual, isolated oscillators by measuring how much a single input delivered by the computer transiently shortened or lengthened the cycle period of the oscillation. We then used this information to correctly predict the strong dependence of the coordination pattern of the firing of the component neurons on the length of the communication delays. Upon this foundation, we can begin to build a theory of the basic principles of synchronization in more complex brain circuits.
PMCID: PMC3252263  PMID: 22241969
6.  Pulse Coupled Oscillators and the Phase Resetting Curve 
Mathematical biosciences  2010;226(2):77-96.
Limit cycle oscillators that are coupled in a pulsatile manner are referred to as pulse coupled oscillators. In these oscillators, the interactions take the form of brief pulses such that the effect of one input dies out before the next is received. A phase resetting curve (PRC) keeps track of how much an input advances or delays the next spike in an oscillatory neuron depending upon where in the cycle the input is applied. PRCs can be used to predict phase locking in networks of pulse coupled oscillators. In some studies of pulse coupled oscillators, a specific form is assumed for the interactions between oscillators, but a more general approach is to formulate the problem assuming a PRC that is generated using a perturbation that approximates the input received in the real biological network. In general, this approach requires that circuit architecture and a specific firing pattern be assumed. This allows the construction of discrete maps from one event to the next. The fixed points of these maps correspond to periodic firing modes and are easier to locate and analyze for stability compared to locating and analyzing periodic modes in the original network directly. Alternatively, maps based on the PRC have been constructed that do not presuppose a firing order. Specific circuits that have been analyzed under the assumption of pulsatile coupling include one to one lockings in a periodically forced oscillator or an oscillator forced at a fixed delay after a threshold event, two bidirectionally coupled oscillators with and without delays, a unidirectional N-ring of oscillators, and N all-to-all networks.
PMCID: PMC3022482  PMID: 20460132
Pulse coupled oscillators; Phase resetting; Phase locking; Synchronization; Splay; Clustering
7.  Using Phase Resetting to Predict 1:1 and 2:2 Locking in Two Neuron Networks in Which Firing Order is not Always Preserved 
Our goal is to understand how nearly synchronous modes arise in heterogenous networks of neurons. In heterogenous networks, instead of exact synchrony, nearly synchronous modes arise, which include both 1:1 and 2:2 phase-locked modes. Existence and stability criteria for 2:2 phase-locked modes in reciprocally coupled two neuron circuits were derived based on the open loop phase resetting curve (PRC) without the assumption of weak coupling. The PRC for each component neuron was generated using the change in synaptic conductance produced by a presynaptic action potential as the perturbation. Separate derivations were required for modes in which the firing order is preserved and for those in which it alternates. Networks composed of two model neurons coupled by reciprocal inhibition were examined to test the predictions. The parameter regimes in which both types of nearly synchronous modes are exhibited were accurately predicted both qualitatively and quantitatively provided that the synaptic time constant is short with respect to the period and that the effect of second order resetting is considered. In contrast, PRC methods based on weak coupling could not predict 2:2 modes and did not predict the 1:1 modes with the level of accuracy achieved by the strong coupling methods. The strong coupling prediction methods provide insight into what manipulations promote near-synchrony in a two neuron network and may also have predictive value for larger networks, which can also manifest changes in firing order. We also identify a novel route by which synchrony is lost in mildly heterogenous networks.
PMCID: PMC2719962  PMID: 17577651
Synchrony; phase response curve; network oscillation
8.  Effect of phase response curve skew on synchronization with and without conduction delays 
A central problem in cortical processing including sensory binding and attentional gating is how neurons can synchronize their responses with zero or near-zero time lag. For a spontaneously firing neuron, an input from another neuron can delay or advance the next spike by different amounts depending upon the timing of the input relative to the previous spike. This information constitutes the phase response curve (PRC). We present a simple graphical method for determining the effect of PRC shape on synchronization tendencies and illustrate it using type 1 PRCs, which consist entirely of advances (delays) in response to excitation (inhibition). We obtained the following generic solutions for type 1 PRCs, which include the pulse-coupled leaky integrate and fire model. For pairs with mutual excitation, exact synchrony can be stable for strong coupling because of the stabilizing effect of the causal limit region of the PRC in which an input triggers a spike immediately upon arrival. However, synchrony is unstable for short delays, because delayed inputs arrive during a refractory period and cannot trigger an immediate spike. Right skew destabilizes antiphase and enables modes with time lags that grow as the conduction delay is increased. Therefore, right skew favors near synchrony at short conduction delays and a gradual transition between synchrony and antiphase for pairs coupled by mutual excitation. For pairs with mutual inhibition, zero time lag synchrony is stable for conduction delays ranging from zero to a substantial fraction of the period for pairs. However, for right skew there is a preferred antiphase mode at short delays. In contrast to mutual excitation, left skew destabilizes antiphase for mutual inhibition so that synchrony dominates at short delays as well. These pairwise synchronization tendencies constrain the synchronization properties of neurons embedded in larger networks.
PMCID: PMC3858834  PMID: 24376399
synchrony; synchronization; pulsatile coupling; phase locking; phase resetting
9.  Effects of conduction delays on the existence and stability of one to one phase locking between two pulse-coupled oscillators 
Gamma oscillations can synchronize with near zero phase lag over multiple cortical regions and between hemispheres, and between two distal sites in hippocampal slices. How synchronization can take place over long distances in a stable manner is considered an open question. The phase resetting curve (PRC) keeps track of how much an input advances or delays the next spike, depending upon where in the cycle it is received. We use PRCs under the assumption of pulsatile coupling to derive existence and stability criteria for 1:1 phase-locking that arises via bidirectional pulse coupling of two limit cycle oscillators with a conduction delay of any duration for any 1:1 firing pattern. The coupling can be strong as long as the effect of one input dissipates before the next input is received. We show the form that the generic synchronous and anti-phase solutions take in a system of two identical, identically pulse-coupled oscillators with identical delays. The stability criterion has a simple form that depends only on the slopes of the PRCs at the phases at which inputs are received and on the number of cycles required to complete the delayed feedback loop. The number of cycles required to complete the delayed feedback loop depends upon both the value of the delay and the firing pattern. We successfully tested the predictions of our methods on networks of model neurons. The criteria can easily be extended to include the effect of an input on the cycle after the one in which it is received.
PMCID: PMC3130804  PMID: 21344300
10.  Phase-response curves and synchronized neural networks 
We review the principal assumptions underlying the application of phase-response curves (PRCs) to synchronization in neuronal networks. The PRC measures how much a given synaptic input perturbs spike timing in a neural oscillator. Among other applications, PRCs make explicit predictions about whether a given network of interconnected neurons will synchronize, as is often observed in cortical structures. Regarding the assumptions of the PRC theory, we conclude: (i) The assumption of noise-tolerant cellular oscillations at or near the network frequency holds in some but not all cases. (ii) Reduced models for PRC-based analysis can be formally related to more realistic models. (iii) Spike-rate adaptation limits PRC-based analysis but does not invalidate it. (iv) The dependence of PRCs on synaptic location emphasizes the importance of improving methods of synaptic stimulation. (v) New methods can distinguish between oscillations that derive from mutual connections and those arising from common drive. (vi) It is helpful to assume linear summation of effects of synaptic inputs; experiments with trains of inputs call this assumption into question. (vii) Relatively subtle changes in network structure can invalidate PRC-based predictions. (viii) Heterogeneity in the preferred frequencies of component neurons does not invalidate PRC analysis, but can annihilate synchronous activity.
PMCID: PMC2894948  PMID: 20603361
neural network; phase-response curve; computational neuroscience
11.  Phase Resetting Curves Determine Synchronization, Phase-locking, and Clustering in Networks of Neural Oscillators 
Networks of model neurons were constructed and their activity was predicted using an iterated map based solely on the phase resetting curves (PRCs). The predictions were quite accurate provided that the resetting to simultaneous inputs was calculated using the sum of the simultaneously active conductances, obviating the need for weak coupling assumptions. Fully synchronous activity was observed only when the slope of the PRC at a phase of zero, corresponding to spike initiation, was positive. A novel stability criterion was developed and tested for all to all networks of identical, identically connected neurons. When the PRC generated using N-1 simultaneously active inputs becomes too steep, the fully synchronous mode loses stability in a network of N model neurons. Therefore, the stability of synchrony can be lost by increasing the slope of this PRC either by increasing the network size or the strength of the individual synapses. Existence and stability criteria were also developed and tested for the splay mode in which neurons fire sequentially. Finally, N/M synchronous sub-clusters of M neurons were predicted using the intersection of parameters that supported both between cluster splay and within cluster synchrony. Surprisingly, the splay mode between clusters could enforce synchrony on sub-clusters that were incapable of synchronizing themselves. These results can be used to gain insights into the activity of networks of biological neurons whose PRCs can be measured.
PMCID: PMC2765798  PMID: 19386918
Network; Synchronization; Oscillator; Rhythm; Phase shift; Synchrony
12.  A New Approach for Determining Phase Response Curves Reveals that Purkinje Cells Can Act as Perfect Integrators 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(4):e1000768.
Cerebellar Purkinje cells display complex intrinsic dynamics. They fire spontaneously, exhibit bistability, and via mutual network interactions are involved in the generation of high frequency oscillations and travelling waves of activity. To probe the dynamical properties of Purkinje cells we measured their phase response curves (PRCs). PRCs quantify the change in spike phase caused by a stimulus as a function of its temporal position within the interspike interval, and are widely used to predict neuronal responses to more complex stimulus patterns. Significant variability in the interspike interval during spontaneous firing can lead to PRCs with a low signal-to-noise ratio, requiring averaging over thousands of trials. We show using electrophysiological experiments and simulations that the PRC calculated in the traditional way by sampling the interspike interval with brief current pulses is biased. We introduce a corrected approach for calculating PRCs which eliminates this bias. Using our new approach, we show that Purkinje cell PRCs change qualitatively depending on the firing frequency of the cell. At high firing rates, Purkinje cells exhibit single-peaked, or monophasic PRCs. Surprisingly, at low firing rates, Purkinje cell PRCs are largely independent of phase, resembling PRCs of ideal non-leaky integrate-and-fire neurons. These results indicate that Purkinje cells can act as perfect integrators at low firing rates, and that the integration mode of Purkinje cells depends on their firing rate.
Author Summary
By observing how brief current pulses injected at different times between spikes change the phase of spiking of a neuron (and thus obtaining the so-called phase response curve), it should be possible to predict a full spike train in response to more complex stimulation patterns. When we applied this traditional protocol to obtain phase response curves in cerebellar Purkinje cells in the presence of noise, we observed a triangular region devoid of data points near the end of the spiking cycle. This “Bermuda Triangle” revealed a flaw in the classical method for constructing phase response curves. We developed a new approach to eliminate this flaw and used it to construct phase response curves of Purkinje cells over a range of spiking rates. Surprisingly, at low firing rates, phase changes were independent of the phase of the injected current pulses, implying that the Purkinje cell is a perfect integrator under these conditions. This mechanism has not yet been described in other cell types and may be crucial for the information processing capabilities of these neurons.
PMCID: PMC2861707  PMID: 20442875
13.  Population dynamics of the modified theta model: macroscopic phase reduction and bifurcation analysis link microscopic neuronal interactions to macroscopic gamma oscillation 
Gamma oscillations of the local field potential are organized by collective dynamics of numerous neurons and have many functional roles in cognition and/or attention. To mathematically and physiologically analyse relationships between individual inhibitory neurons and macroscopic oscillations, we derive a modification of the theta model, which possesses voltage-dependent dynamics with appropriate synaptic interactions. Bifurcation analysis of the corresponding Fokker–Planck equation (FPE) enables us to consider how synaptic interactions organize collective oscillations. We also develop the adjoint method (infinitesimal phase resetting curve) for simultaneous equations consisting of ordinary differential equations representing synaptic dynamics and a partial differential equation for determining the probability distribution of the membrane potential. This method provides a macroscopic phase response function (PRF), which gives insights into how it is modulated by external perturbation or internal changes of parameters. We investigate the effects of synaptic time constants and shunting inhibition on these gamma oscillations. The sensitivity of rising and decaying time constants is analysed in the oscillatory parameter regions; we find that these sensitivities are not largely dependent on rate of synaptic coupling but, rather, on current and noise intensity. Analyses of shunting inhibition reveal that it can affect both promotion and elimination of gamma oscillations. When the macroscopic oscillation is far from the bifurcation, shunting promotes the gamma oscillations and the PRF becomes flatter as the reversal potential of the synapse increases, indicating the insensitivity of gamma oscillations to perturbations. By contrast, when the macroscopic oscillation is near the bifurcation, shunting eliminates gamma oscillations and a stable firing state appears. More interestingly, under appropriate balance of parameters, two branches of bifurcation are found in our analysis of the FPE. In this case, shunting inhibition can effect both promotion and elimination of the gamma oscillation depending only on the reversal potential.
PMCID: PMC4006245  PMID: 24647906
neuronal population; gamma oscillation; macroscopic phase response function; adjoint method; sparse firing
14.  Robustness, variability, phase dependence, and longevity of individual synaptic input effects on spike timing during fluctuating synaptic backgrounds: A modeling study of globus pallidus neuron phase response properties 
Neuroscience  2012;219:92-110.
A neuron’s phase response curve (PRC) shows how inputs arriving at different times during the spike cycle differentially affect the timing of subsequent spikes. Using a full morphological model of a globus pallidus (GP) neuron, we previously demonstrated that dendritic conductances shape the PRC in a spike frequency dependent manner, suggesting different functional roles of perisomatic and distal dendritic synapses in the control of patterned network activity. In the present study we extend this analysis to examine the impact of physiologically realistic high conductance states on somatic and dendritic PRCs and the time course of spike train perturbations. First, we found that average somatic and dendritic PRCs preserved their shapes and spike frequency dependence when the model was driven by spatially-distributed, stochastic conductance inputs rather than tonic somatic current. However, responses to inputs during specific synaptic backgrounds often deviated substantially from the average PRC. Therefore, we analyzed the interactions of PRC stimuli with transient fluctuations in the synaptic background on a trial-by-trial basis. We found that the variability in responses to PRC stimuli and the incidence of stimulus-evoked added or skipped spikes were stimulus-phase-dependent and reflected the profile of the average PRC, suggesting commonality in the underlying mechanisms. Clear differences in the relation between the phase of input and variability of spike response between dendritic and somatic inputs indicate that theses regions generally represent distinct dynamical subsystems of synaptic integration with respect to influencing the stability of spike time attractors generated by the overall synaptic conductance.
PMCID: PMC3402697  PMID: 22659567
phase response curve (PRC); high conductance state; stochastic synaptic background; spike time attractor; dendrite; SK current; synchronization; oscillation
15.  Slow Noise in the Period of a Biological Oscillator Underlies Gradual Trends and Abrupt Transitions in Phasic Relationships in Hybrid Neural Networks 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(5):e1003622.
In order to study the ability of coupled neural oscillators to synchronize in the presence of intrinsic as opposed to synaptic noise, we constructed hybrid circuits consisting of one biological and one computational model neuron with reciprocal synaptic inhibition using the dynamic clamp. Uncoupled, both neurons fired periodic trains of action potentials. Most coupled circuits exhibited qualitative changes between one-to-one phase-locking with fairly constant phasic relationships and phase slipping with a constant progression in the phasic relationships across cycles. The phase resetting curve (PRC) and intrinsic periods were measured for both neurons, and used to construct a map of the firing intervals for both the coupled and externally forced (PRC measurement) conditions. For the coupled network, a stable fixed point of the map predicted phase locking, and its absence produced phase slipping. Repetitive application of the map was used to calibrate different noise models to simultaneously fit the noise level in the measurement of the PRC and the dynamics of the hybrid circuit experiments. Only a noise model that added history-dependent variability to the intrinsic period could fit both data sets with the same parameter values, as well as capture bifurcations in the fixed points of the map that cause switching between slipping and locking. We conclude that the biological neurons in our study have slowly-fluctuating stochastic dynamics that confer history dependence on the period. Theoretical results to date on the behavior of ensembles of noisy biological oscillators may require re-evaluation to account for transitions induced by slow noise dynamics.
Author Summary
Many biological phenomena exhibit synchronized oscillations in the presence of noise and heterogeneity. These include brain rhythms that underlie cognition and spinal rhythms that underlie rhythmic motor activity like breathing and locomotion. A two oscillator system was constructed in which most of the circuit was implemented in a computer model, and was therefore completely known and under the control of the investigators. The one biological component was an oscillator in which an apparently novel manifestation of biological noise was identified, dynamical noise in the period of the oscillator itself. This study quantifies how much noise and heterogeneity this simple two oscillator system can tolerate before desynchronizing. More complicated systems of oscillators may follow similar principles.
PMCID: PMC4022488  PMID: 24830924
16.  Responses of a bursting pacemaker to excitation reveal spatial segregation between bursting and spiking mechanisms 
Central pattern generators (CPGs) frequently include bursting neurons that serve as pacemakers for rhythm generation. Phase resetting curves (PRCs) can provide insight into mechanisms underlying phase locking in such circuits. PRCs were constructed for a pacemaker bursting complex in the pyloric circuit in the stomatogastric ganglion of the lobster and crab. This complex is comprised of the Anterior Burster (AB) neuron and two Pyloric Dilator (PD) neurons that are all electrically coupled. Artificial excitatory synaptic conductance pulses of different strengths and durations were injected into one of the AB or PD somata using the Dynamic Clamp. Previously, we characterized the inhibitory PRCs by assuming a single slow process that enabled synaptic inputs to trigger switches between an up state in which spiking occurs and a down state in which it does not. Excitation produced five different PRC shapes, which could not be explained with such a simple model. A separate dendritic compartment was required to separate the mechanism that generates the up and down phases of the bursting envelope (1) from synaptic inputs applied at the soma, (2) from axonal spike generation and (3) from a slow process with a slower time scale than burst generation. This study reveals that due to the nonlinear properties and compartmentalization of ionic channels, the response to excitation is more complex than inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3160527  PMID: 21360137
17.  Phase response curve analysis of a full morphological globus pallidus neuron model reveals distinct perisomatic and dendritic modes of synaptic integration 
Synchronization of globus pallidus (GP) neurons and cortically-entrained oscillations between GP and other basal ganglia nuclei are key features of the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease. Phase response curves (PRCs), which tabulate the effects of phasic inputs within a neuron's spike cycle on output spike timing, are efficient tools for predicting the emergence of synchronization in neuronal networks and entrainment to periodic input. In this study we apply physiologically realistic synaptic conductance inputs to a full morphological GP neuron model to determine the phase response properties of the soma and different regions of the dendritic tree. We find that perisomatic excitatory inputs delivered throughout the inter-spike interval advance the phase of the spontaneous spike cycle yielding a type I PRC. In contrast, we demonstrate that distal dendritic excitatory inputs can either delay or advance the next spike depending on whether they occur early or late in the spike cycle. We find this latter pattern of responses, summarized by a biphasic (type II) PRC, was a consequence of dendritic activation of the small conductance calcium-activated potassium current, SK. We also evaluate the spike-frequency dependence of somatic and dendritic PRC shapes, and we demonstrate the robustness of our results to variations of conductance densities, distributions, and kinetic parameters. We conclude that the distal dendrite of GP neurons embodies a distinct dynamical subsystem that could promote synchronization of pallidal networks to excitatory inputs. These results highlight the need to consider different effects of perisomatic and dendritic inputs in the control of network behavior.
PMCID: PMC2833015  PMID: 20164360
dendrite; SK current; synchronization; oscillation; basal ganglia; Parkinson's disease
18.  Inclusion of noise in iterated firing time maps based on the phase response curve 
The infinitesimal phase response curve (PRC) of a neural oscillator to a weak input is a powerful predictor of network dynamics; however, many networks have strong coupling and require direct measurement of the PRC for strong inputs under the assumption of pulsatile coupling. We incorporate measured noise levels in firing time maps constructed from PRCs to predict phase-locked modes of activity, phase difference, and locking strength in 78 heterogeneous hybrid networks of 2 neurons constructed using the dynamic clamp. We show that noise may either destroy or stabilize a phase-locked mode of activity.
PMCID: PMC2946859  PMID: 20866456
19.  Effect of phase response curve skewness on synchronization of electrically coupled neuronal oscillators 
Neural computation  2013;25(10):10.1162/NECO_a_00488.
We investigate why electrically coupled neuronal oscillators synchronize or fail to synchronize using the theory of weakly coupled oscillators. Stability of synchrony and antisynchrony is predicted analytically and verified using numerical bifurcation diagrams. The shape of the phase response curve (PRC), the shape of the voltage time course, and the frequency of spiking are freely varied to map out regions of parameter spaces that hold stable solutions. We find that type-1 and type-2 PRCs can both hold synchronous and antisynchronous solutions, but the shape of the PRC and the voltage determine the extent of their stability. This is achieved by introducing a five-piecewise linear model to the PRC, and a three-piecewise linear model to the voltage time course, and then analyzing the resultant eigenvalue equations that determine the stability of the phase-locked solutions. A single time parameter defines the skewness of the PRC, and another single time parameter defines the spike width and frequency. Our approach gives a comprehensive picture of the relation between the PRC shape, voltage time course and the stability of the resultant synchronous and antisynchronous solutions.
PMCID: PMC3819133  PMID: 23777519
20.  Phase-Amplitude Response Functions for Transient-State Stimuli 
The phase response curve (PRC) is a powerful tool to study the effect of a perturbation on the phase of an oscillator, assuming that all the dynamics can be explained by the phase variable. However, factors like the rate of convergence to the oscillator, strong forcing or high stimulation frequency may invalidate the above assumption and raise the question of how is the phase variation away from an attractor. The concept of isochrons turns out to be crucial to answer this question; from it, we have built up Phase Response Functions (PRF) and, in the present paper, we complete the extension of advancement functions to the transient states by defining the Amplitude Response Function (ARF) to control changes in the transversal variables. Based on the knowledge of both the PRF and the ARF, we study the case of a pulse-train stimulus, and compare the predictions given by the PRC-approach (a 1D map) to those given by the PRF-ARF-approach (a 2D map); we observe differences up to two orders of magnitude in favor of the 2D predictions, especially when the stimulation frequency is high or the strength of the stimulus is large. We also explore the role of hyperbolicity of the limit cycle as well as geometric aspects of the isochrons. Summing up, we aim at enlightening the contribution of transient effects in predicting the phase response and showing the limits of the phase reduction approach to prevent from falling into wrong predictions in synchronization problems.
List of Abbreviations
PRC phase response curve, phase resetting curve.
PRF phase response function.
ARF amplitude response function.
PMCID: PMC3849076  PMID: 23945295
21.  A Mathematical Model of the Circadian Phase-Shifting Effects of Exogenous Melatonin 
Journal of biological rhythms  2013;28(1):79-89.
Melatonin is endogenously produced and released in humans during nighttime darkness and is suppressed by ocular light exposure. Exogenous melatonin is used to induce circadian phase shifts and sleep. The circadian phase-shifting ability of a stimulus (e.g., melatonin or light) relative to its timing may be displayed as a phase response curve (PRC). Published PRCs to exogenous melatonin show a transition from phase advances to delays approximately 1 h after dim light melatonin onset. A previously developed mathematical model simulates endogenous production and clearance of melatonin as a function of circadian phase, light-induced suppression, and resetting of circadian phase by light. We extend this model to include the pharmacokinetics of oral exogenous melatonin and phase-shifting effects via melatonin receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the mammalian hypothalamus. Model parameters are fit using 2 data sets: (1) blood melatonin concentration following a 0.3- or 5.0-mg dose, and (2) a PRC to a 3.0-mg dose of melatonin. After fitting to the 3.0-mg PRC, the model correctly predicts that, by comparison, the 0.5-mg PRC is slightly decreased in amplitude and shifted to a later circadian phase. This model also reproduces blood concentration profiles of various melatonin preparations that differ only in absorption rate and percentage degradation by first-pass hepatic metabolism. This model can simulate experimental protocols using oral melatonin, with potential application to guide dose size and timing to optimally shift and entrain circadian rhythms.
PMCID: PMC3733227  PMID: 23382594
melatonin; modeling; circadian rhythms; pharmacokinetics; phase shift; exogenous dose; phase response curve
22.  Efficient Estimation of Phase-Resetting Curves in Real Neurons and its Significance for Neural-Network Modeling 
Physical review letters  2005;94(15):158101.
The phase-resetting curve (PRC) of a neural oscillator describes the effect of a perturbation on its periodic motion and is therefore useful to study how the neuron responds to stimuli and whether it phase locks to other neurons in a network. Combining theory, computer simulations and electrophysiological experiments we present a simple method for estimating the PRC of real neurons. This allows us to simplify the complex dynamics of a single neuron to a phase model. We also illustrate how to infer the existence of coherent network activity from the estimated PRC.
PMCID: PMC1410718  PMID: 15904191
23.  PDF neuron firing phase-shifts key circadian activity neurons in Drosophila 
eLife  2014;3:e02780.
Our experiments address two long-standing models for the function of the Drosophila brain circadian network: a dual oscillator model, which emphasizes the primacy of PDF-containing neurons, and a cell-autonomous model for circadian phase adjustment. We identify five different circadian (E) neurons that are a major source of rhythmicity and locomotor activity. Brief firing of PDF cells at different times of day generates a phase response curve (PRC), which mimics a light-mediated PRC and requires PDF receptor expression in the five E neurons. Firing also resembles light by causing TIM degradation in downstream neurons. Unlike light however, firing-mediated phase-shifting is CRY-independent and exploits the E3 ligase component CUL-3 in the early night to degrade TIM. Our results suggest that PDF neurons integrate light information and then modulate the phase of E cell oscillations and behavioral rhythms. The results also explain how fly brain rhythms persist in constant darkness and without CRY.
eLife digest
Most animals have daily rhythms of activity: some are awake during the day and asleep at night, whilst others are more active at night, or during the twilight hours around dawn and dusk. These cycles of activity are driven by an internal body clock, which is reset in response to external cues, like light and temperature, and which keeps the animal in sync with the day–night cycle.
The fruit fly Drosophila has daily—or circadian—rhythms of behavior, which are controlled by a network of genes that are switched ‘on’ or ‘off’ at different times in every 24-hr period. These circadian genes encode various proteins, including PERIOD and TIMELESS. The levels of these two proteins increase during the day and into the night, until they reach a point at which they cause their own genes to be switched off. PERIOD and TIMELESS are then destroyed each morning, and the cycle begins anew. Most of these same proteins perform similar functions in mammals.
In the fly brain, two groups of neurons express these key proteins and control the timings of activity or movement. One group, called M cells, regulates activity in the morning and also produces a small molecule called PDF. Another group, called E cells, controls evening activity, but is less well-defined.
Since M cells can maintain circadian rhythms even in total darkness, these cells were also considered key ‘pacemaker neurons’. However, Guo et al. now challenge this view by identifying five E cells that are the major source of circadian activity. Blocking the release of signaling molecules from these neurons severely disrupted movement in both the morning and the evening. The E cells are also critical for timekeeping under a normal day–night cycle.
Guo et al. found that the rhythm of the E cells is reset when the M cell neurons fire, which causes a release of PDF molecules. Further, PDF molecules reset the E cells by causing the degradation of the TIMELESS protein—which is similar to the effect of light, although light cause TIMELESS to be degraded via a different biochemical pathway.
Guo et al. suggest that under normal light–dark conditions the E cells are important for driving the flies' activity as well as for overall timekeeping. The M cells, instead, appear to function primarily to integrate information about light and reset the E cell clock. Challenges moving forward will include understanding other ways in which the firing of neurons can affect timekeeping, as well as looking if there any differences between the five E cells.
PMCID: PMC4092873  PMID: 24939987
circadian rhythms; phase shift; PDF; locomotor activity; neuron activity; D. melanogaster
24.  Phase response theory extended to nonoscillatory network components 
New tools for analysis of oscillatory networks using phase response theory (PRT) under the assumption of pulsatile coupling have been developed steadily since the 1980s, but none have yet allowed for analysis of mixed systems containing nonoscillatory elements. This caveat has excluded the application of PRT to most real systems, which are often mixed. We show that a recently developed tool, the functional phase resetting curve (fPRC), provides a serendipitous benefit: it allows incorporation of nonoscillatory elements into systems of oscillators where PRT can be applied. We validate this method in a model system of neural oscillators and a biological system, the pyloric network of crustacean decapods.
PMCID: PMC3501682  PMID: 23004844
25.  Stability of Two Cluster Solutions in Pulse Coupled Networks of Neural Oscillators 
Phase response curves (PRCs) have been widely used to study synchronization in neural circuits comprised of pacemaking neurons. They describe how the timing of the next spike in a given spontaneously firing neuron is affected by the phase at which an input from another neuron is received. Here we study two reciprocally coupled clusters of pulse coupled oscillatory neurons. The neurons within each cluster are presumed to be identical and identically pulse coupled, but not necessarily identical to those in the other cluster. We investigate a two cluster solution in which all oscillators are synchronized within each cluster, but in which the two clusters are phase locked at nonzero phase with each other. Intuitively, one might expect this solution to be stable only when synchrony within each isolated cluster is stable, but this is not the case. We prove rigorously the stability of the two cluster solution and show how reciprocal coupling can stabilize synchrony within clusters that cannot synchronize in isolation. These stability results for the two cluster solution suggest a mechanism by which reciprocal coupling between brain regions can induce local synchronization via the network feedback loop.
PMCID: PMC3059341  PMID: 20725773
neuronal networks; synchronization; clustering; phase response curves; pulse coupled oscillators

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