Rhythm generating neural circuits underlying diverse behaviors such as locomotion, sleep states, digestion and respiration play critical roles in our lives. Irregularities in these rhythmic behaviors characterize disease states - thus, it is essential that we identify ionic and/or cellular mechanisms that are necessary for triggering these rhythmic behaviors on a regular basis. Here, we examine which ionic conductances underlie regular or “stable” respiratory activities, proposed to underlie eupnea, or normal quiet breathing. We used a mouse in vitro medullary slice preparation containing the rhythmogenic respiratory neural circuit, called the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) that underlies inspiratory respiratory activity. We varied either [K+]o, [Na+]o, or blocked voltage gated calcium channels (VGCC) while recording from synaptically isolated respiratory pacemakers and examined which of these manipulations resulted in their endogenous bursting to become more irregular. Of these, lowering [Na+]o increased the irregularity of endogenous bursting by synaptically isolated pacemakers. Lowering [Na+]o also decreased the regularity of fictive eupneic activity generated by the ventral respiratory group (VRG) population and hypoglossal motor output. Voltage clamp data indicate that lowering [Na+]o, in a range that results in irregular population rhythm generation, decreased persistent sodium currents, but not transient sodium currents underlying action potentials. Our data suggest that background sodium currents play a major role in determining the regularity of the fictive eupneic respiratory rhythm.
The network of coupled neurons in the pre-Bötzinger complex (pBC) of the medulla generates a bursting rhythm, which underlies the inspiratory phase of respiration. In some of these neurons, bursting persists even when synaptic coupling in the network is blocked and respiratory rhythmic discharge stops. Bursting in inspiratory neurons has been extensively studied, and two classes of bursting neurons have been identified, with bursting mechanism depends on either persistent sodium current or changes in intracellular Ca2+, respectively. Motivated by experimental evidence from these intrinsically bursting neurons, we present a two-compartment mathematical model of an isolated pBC neuron with two independent bursting mechanisms. Bursting in the somatic compartment is modeled via inactivation of a persistent sodium current, whereas bursting in the dendritic compartment relies on Ca2+ oscillations, which are determined by the neuromodulatory tone. The model explains a number of conflicting experimental results and is able to generate a robust bursting rhythm, over a large range of parameters, with a frequency adjusted by neuromodulators.
Respiratory rhythm; Dendritic bursting; Ca2+ oscillations; Pre-Bötzinger complex; Intrinsic burster; Endogenous neurotransmitters
Neuromodulators, such as Substance P (SubP) play an important role in modulating many rhythmic activities driven by central pattern generators (e.g., locomotion, respiration). However, the mechanism by which SubP enhances breathing regularity has not been determined. Here, we used mouse brainstem slices containing the pre-Bötzinger Complex (Pre-BötC) to demonstrate, for the first time, that SubP activates transient receptor protein canonical (TRPC) channels to enhance respiratory rhythm regularity. Moreover, SubP enhancement of network regularity is accomplished via selective enhancement of ICAN-dependent intrinsic bursting properties. In contrast to INaP-dependant pacemakers, ICAN-dependant pacemaker bursting activity is TRPC dependent. Western Blots reveal TRPC3 and TRPC7 channels are expressed in rhythmically active ventral respiratory group (VRG) island preparations. Taken together, these data suggest that SubP-mediated activation of TRPC3/7 channels underlies rhythmic ICAN-dependent pacemaker activity and enhances the regularity of respiratory rhythm activity.
The cellular and ionic mechanisms that generate the rhythm in central pattern generator (CPG) networks for simple movements are not well understood. Using vertebrate locomotion, respiration and mastication as exemplars, I describe four main principles of rhythmogenesis: (1) rhythmogenic ionic currents underlie all CPG networks, regardless of whether they are driven by a network pacemaker or an endogenous pacemaker neuron kernel; (2) fast synaptic transmission often evokes slow currents that can affect cycle frequency; (3) there are likely to be multiple and redundant mechanisms for rhythmogenesis in any essential CPG network; and (4) glial cells may participate in CPG network function.
The neural basis for rhythmogenesis in simple behaviors has been studied for almost 100 years, yet we cannot identify with certainty the detailed mechanisms by which rhythmic behaviors are generated in any vertebrate system. Early studies focused on whether locomotor rhythms were generated by a chain of coupled reflexes that require sensory feedback, or by a central neural network. By now there is general agreement that for the major rhythmic behaviors (including locomotion, respiration, and mastication, the subjects of this book), there exist CPG networks within the central nervous system that are able to drive the basic rhythmic behavior in the complete absence of sensory feedback. This of course does not eliminate an important role for sensory feedback, which certainly affects cycle frequency and for some behaviors determines the timing of one phase of the behavior. Given the existence of CPGs, the question of rhythmogenesis can be rephrased to ask how these networks determine the timing of the rhythmic behavior. In this chapter, I focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms that could underlie rhythmogenesis in CPG networks, especially those that drive locomotion, respiration, and mastication.
Central Pattern Generator; rhythmogenesis; bursting; modulation; ion channel; receptor; calcium
The resting membrane potential of the pacemaker neurons is one of the essential
mechanisms underlying rhythm generation. In this study, we described the
biophysical properties of an uncharacterized channel (U-type channel) and
investigated the role of the channel in the rhythmic activity of a respiratory
pacemaker neuron and the respiratory behaviour in adult freshwater snail
Lymnaea stagnalis. Our results show that the channel
conducts an inward leak current carried by Na+
(ILeak-Na). The ILeak-Na contributed to the resting
membrane potential and was required for maintaining rhythmic action potential
bursting activity of the identified pacemaker RPeD1 neurons. Partial knockdown
of the U-type channel suppressed the aerial respiratory behaviour of the adult
snail in vivo. These findings identified the
Na+ leak conductance via the U-type channel, likely a
NALCN-like channel, as one of the fundamental mechanisms regulating rhythm
activity of pacemaker neurons and respiratory behaviour in adult animals.
The location of neurons generating the rhythm of breathing in mammals is unknown. By microsection of the neonatal rat brainstem in vitro, a limited region of the ventral medulla (the pre-Bötzinger Complex) that contains neurons essential for rhythmogenesis was identified. Rhythm generation was eliminated by removal of only this region. Medullary slices containing the pre-Bötzinger Complex generated respiratory-related oscillations similar to those generated by the whole brainstem in vitro, and neurons with voltage-dependent pacemaker-like properties were identified in this region. Thus, the respiratory rhythm in the mammalian neonatal nervous system may result from a population of conditional bursting pacemaker neurons in the pre-Bötzinger Complex.
The rhythmic firing behavior of spinal motoneurons is a function of their electrical properties and synaptic inputs. However, the relative contribution of endogenous versus network-based rhythmogenic mechanisms to locomotion is unclear. To address this issue, we have recorded from identified motoneurons and compared their current-evoked firing patterns to network-driven ones in the larval zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zebrafish axial motoneurons are recruited topographically from the bottom of the spinal cord up. Here, we have explored differences in the morphology of axial motoneurons, their electrical properties and their synaptic drive, to reveal how they match the topographic pattern of recruitment. More ventrally located ‘secondary’ motoneurons generate bursts of action potentials in response to constant current steps, demonstrating a strong inherent rhythmogenesis. The membrane potential oscillations underlying bursting behavior occur in the normal frequency range of swimming. In contrast, more dorsal secondaries chatter in response to current, while the most dorsally distributed ‘primary’ motoneurons all fire tonically. We find that systematic variations in excitability and endogenous rhythmicity are inversely related to the level of oscillatory synaptic drive within the entire axial motor pool. Specifically, bursting cells exhibit the least amount of drive while tonic cells exhibit the most. Our data suggest that increases in swimming frequency are accomplished by the recruitment of axial motoneurons that progressively rely on instructive synaptic drive to shape their oscillatory activity appropriately. Thus, within the zebrafish spinal cord there are differences in the relative contribution of endogenous versus network-based rhythms to locomotion and these vary predictably according to order of recruitment.
Mammalian central pattern generators (CPGs) producing rhythmic movements exhibit extremely robust and flexible behavior. Network architectures that enable these features are not well understood. Here we studied organization of the brain stem respiratory CPG. By sequential rostral to caudal transections through the pontine-medullary respiratory network within an in situ perfused rat brain stem–spinal cord preparation, we showed that network dynamics reorganized and new rhythmogenic mechanisms emerged. The normal three-phase respiratory rhythm transformed to a two-phase and then to a one-phase rhythm as the network was reduced. Expression of the three-phase rhythm required the presence of the pons, generation of the two-phase rhythm depended on the integrity of Bötzinger and pre-Bötzinger complexes and interactions between them, and the one-phase rhythm was generated within the pre-Bötzinger complex. Transformation from the three-phase to a two-phase pattern also occurred in intact preparations when chloride-mediated synaptic inhibition was reduced. In contrast to the three-phase and two-phase rhythms, the one-phase rhythm was abolished by blockade of persistent sodium current (INaP). A model of the respiratory network was developed to reproduce and explain these observations. The model incorporated interacting populations of respiratory neurons within spatially organized brain stem compartments. Our simulations reproduced the respiratory patterns recorded from intact and sequentially reduced preparations. Our results suggest that the three-phase and two-phase rhythms involve inhibitory network interactions, whereas the one-phase rhythm depends on INaP. We conclude that the respiratory network has rhythmogenic capabilities at multiple levels of network organization, allowing expression of motor patterns specific for various physiological and pathophysiological respiratory behaviors.
In the medicinal leech, a rhythmically active 14-interneuron network composes the central pattern generator for heartbeat. In two segmental ganglia, bilateral pairs of reciprocally inhibitory heart interneurons (oscillator interneurons) produce a rhythm of alternating bursts of action potentials that paces activity in the pattern-generating network. The neuropeptide myomodulin decreases the period of this bursting and increases the intraburst spike frequency when applied to isolated ganglia containing these oscillator interneurons. Myomodulin also decreases period, increases spike frequency, and increases the robustness of endogenous bursting in synaptically isolated (with bicuculline) oscillator interneurons. In voltage-clamp experiments using hyperpolarizing ramps, we identify an increase in membrane conductance elicited by myomodulin with the properties of a hyperpolarization-activated current. Voltage steps confirm that myomodulin indeed increases the maximum conductance of the hyperpolarization-activated current Ih. In similar experiments using Cs+ to block Ih, we demonstrate that myomodulin also causes a steady offset in the ramp current that is not associated with an increase in conductance. This current offset is blocked by ouabain, indicating that myomodulin inhibits the Na/K pump. In current-clamp experiments, when Ih is blocked with Cs+, myomodulin decreases period and increases spike frequency of alternating bursting in synaptically connected oscillator interneurons, suggesting that inhibiting the Na/K pump modulates these burst characteristics. These observations indicate that myomodulin decreases period and increases spike frequency of endogenous bursting in synaptically isolated oscillator heart interneurons and alternating bursting of reciprocally inhibitory pairs of interneurons, at least in part, by increasing Ih and by decreasing the Na/K pump.
Mammalian central pattern generators producing rhythmic movements exhibit robust but flexible behavior. However, brainstem network architectures that enable these features are not well understood. Using precise sequential transections through the pons to medulla, it was observed that there was compartmentalization of distinct rhythmogenic mechanisms in the ponto-medullary respiratory network, which has rostro-caudal organization. The eupneic 3-phase respiratory pattern was transformed to a 2-phase and then to a 1-phase pattern as the network was physically reduced. The pons, the retrotrapezoid nucleus and glycine mediated inhibition are all essential for expression of the 3-phase rhythm. The 2-phase rhythm depends on inhibitory interactions (reciprocal) between Bötzinger and pre-Bötzinger complexes, whereas the 1-phase-pattern is generated within the pre-Bötzinger complex and is reliant on the persistent sodium current. In conditions of forced expiration, the RTN region was found to be essential for the expression of abdominal late expiratory activity. However, it is unknown whether the RTN generates or simply relays this activity. Entrained with the central respiratory network is the sympathetic nervous system, which exhibits patterns of discharge coupled with the respiratory cycle (in terms of both gain and phase of coupling) and dysfunctions in this coupling appear to underpin pathological conditions. In conclusion, the respiratory network has rhythmogenic capabilities at multiple levels of network organization, allowing expression of motor patterns specific for various physiological and pathophysiological respiratory behaviors.
retrotrapezoid nuclei; Bötzinger Complex; abdominal nerve
A typical property of isolated cultured neuronal networks of dissociated rat cortical cells is synchronized spiking, called bursting, starting about one week after plating, when the dissociated cells have sufficiently sent out their neurites and formed enough synaptic connections. This paper is the third in a series of three on simulation models of cultured networks. Our two previous studies ,  have shown that random recurrent network activity models generate intra- and inter-bursting patterns similar to experimental data. The networks were noise or pacemaker-driven and had Izhikevich-neuronal elements with only short-term plastic (STP) synapses (so, no long-term potentiation, LTP, or depression, LTD, was included). However, elevated pre-phases (burst leaders) and after-phases of burst main shapes, that usually arise during the development of the network, were not yet simulated in sufficient detail. This lack of detail may be due to the fact that the random models completely missed network topology .and a growth model. Therefore, the present paper adds, for the first time, a growth model to the activity model, to give the network a time dependent topology and to explain burst shapes in more detail. Again, without LTP or LTD mechanisms. The integrated growth-activity model yielded realistic bursting patterns. The automatic adjustment of various mutually interdependent network parameters is one of the major advantages of our current approach. Spatio-temporal bursting activity was validated against experiment. Depending on network size, wave reverberation mechanisms were seen along the network boundaries, which may explain the generation of phases of elevated firing before and after the main phase of the burst shape.In summary, the results show that adding topology and growth explain burst shapes in great detail and suggest that young networks still lack/do not need LTP or LTD mechanisms.
Avian nucleus isthmi pars parvocellularis (Ipc) neurons are reciprocally connected with the layer 10 (L10) neurons in the optic tectum and respond with oscillatory bursts to visual stimulation. Our in vitro experiments show that both neuron types respond with regular spiking to somatic current injection and that the feedforward and feedback synaptic connections are excitatory, but of different strength and time course. To elucidate mechanisms of oscillatory bursting in this network of regularly spiking neurons, we investigated an experimentally constrained model of coupled leaky integrate-and-fire neurons with spike-rate adaptation. The model reproduces the observed Ipc oscillatory bursting in response to simulated visual stimulation. A scan through the model parameter volume reveals that Ipc oscillatory burst generation can be caused by strong and brief feedforward synaptic conductance changes. The mechanism is sensitive to the parameter values of spike-rate adaptation. In conclusion, we show that a network of regular-spiking neurons with feedforward excitation and spike-rate adaptation can generate oscillatory bursting in response to a constant input.
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.
The rhythmic pyloric network of the lobster stomatogastric system approximately maintains phase (that is, the burst durations and durations between the bursts of its neurons change proportionally) when network cycle period is altered by current injection into the network pacemaker (Hooper, 1997a,b). When isolated from the network and driven by rhythmic hyperpolarizing current pulses, the delay to firing after each pulse of at least one network neuron type (Pyloric, PY) varies in a phase-maintaining manner when cycle period is varied (Hooper, 1998). These variations require PY neurons to have intrinsic mechanisms that respond to changes in neuron activity on time scales at least as long as two seconds. Slowly activating and deactivating conductances could provide such a mechanism. We tested this possibility by building models containing various slow conductances. This work showed that such conductances could indeed support intrinsic phase-maintenance and we show here results for one such conductance, a slow potassium conductance. These conductances supported phase maintenance because their mean activation level changed, hence altering neuron post-inhibition firing delay, when the rhythmic input to the neuron changed. Switching the sign of the dependence of slow conductance activation and deactivation on membrane potential resulted in neuron delays switching to change in an anti-phase maintaining manner. These data suggest that slow conductances or similar slow processes such as changes in intracellular Ca2+ concentration could underlie phase maintenance in pyloric network neurons.
Burst; Central Pattern Generator; Crustacea; Motor Control; Network; Neuron; Potassium Channels; Stomatogastric
Network oscillations typically span a limited range of frequency. In pacemaker-driven networks, including many Central Pattern Generators (CPGs), this frequency range is determined by the properties of bursting pacemaker neurons and their synaptic connections; thus, factors that affect the burst frequency of pacemaker neurons should play a role in determining the network frequency. We examine the role of membrane resonance of pacemaker neurons on the network frequency in the crab pyloric CPG. The pyloric oscillations (freq ~1 Hz) are generated by a group of pacemaker neurons: the Anterior Burster (AB) and the Pyloric Dilator (PD). We examine the impedance profiles of the AB and PD neurons in response to sinusoidal current injections with varying frequency and find that both neuron types exhibit membrane resonance, i.e. demonstrate maximal impedance at a given preferred frequency. The membrane resonance frequencies of the AB and PD neurons fall within the range of the pyloric network oscillation frequency. Experiments with pharmacological blockers and computational modeling show that both calcium currents ICa and the hyperpolarization-activated inward current Ih, are important in producing the membrane resonance in these neurons. We then demonstrate that both the membrane resonance frequency of the PD neuron and its supra-threshold bursting frequency can be shifted in the same direction by either DC current injection or by using the dynamic clamp technique to inject artificial conductances for Ih or ICa. Together, these results suggest that membrane resonance of pacemaker neurons can be strongly correlated with the CPG oscillation frequency.
Oscillation; central pattern generator; resonance; stomatogastric; model; Ih
Spontaneous activity driven by “pacemaker” neurons, defined by their intrinsic ability to generate rhythmic burst-firing, contributes to the development of sensory circuits in many regions of the immature CNS. However, it is unknown if pacemaker-like neurons are present within central pain pathways in the neonate. Here we provide evidence that a subpopulation of glutamatergic interneurons within lamina I of the rat spinal cord exhibits oscillatory burst-firing during early life, which occurs independently of fast synaptic transmission. Pacemaker neurons were distinguished by a higher ratio of persistent, voltage-gated Na+ conductance to leak membrane conductance (gNa,P / gleak) compared to adjacent, non-bursting lamina I neurons. The activation of high-threshold (N-type and L-type) voltage-gated Ca2+ channels also facilitated rhythmic burst-firing by triggering intracellular Ca2+ signaling. Bursting neurons received direct projections from high-threshold sensory afferents, but transmitted nociceptive signals with poor fidelity while in the bursting mode. The observation that pacemaker neurons send axon collaterals throughout the neonatal spinal cord raises the possibility that intrinsic burst-firing could provide an endogenous drive to the developing sensorimotor networks which mediate spinal pain reflexes.
Superficial dorsal horn; development; patch clamp; burst-firing; nociceptive
Data from perinatal and juvenile rodents support our hypothesis that the preBötzinger complex generates inspiratory rhythm and the retrotrapezoid nucleus–parafacial respiratory group (RTN/pFRG) generates active expiration (AE). Although the role of the RTN/pFRG in adulthood is disputed, we hypothesized that its rhythmogenicity persists but is typically silenced by synaptic inhibition. We show in adult anesthetized rats that local pharmacological disinhibition or optogenetic excitation of the RTN/pFRG can generate AE and transforms previously silent RTN/pFRG neurons into rhythmically active cells whose firing is correlated with late-phase active expiration. Brief excitatory stimuli also reset the respiratory rhythm, indicating strong coupling of AE to inspiration. The AE network location in adult rats overlaps with the perinatal pFRG and appears lateral to the chemosensitive region of adult RTN. We suggest that (1) the RTN/pFRG contains a conditional oscillator that generates AE, and (2) at rest and in anesthesia, synaptic inhibition of RTN/pFRG suppresses AE.
We developed a dual oscillator model to facilitate the understanding of dynamic interactions between the parafacial respiratory group (pFRG) and the preBötzinger complex (preBötC) neurons in the respiratory rhythm generation. Both neuronal groups were modeled as groups of 81 interconnected pacemaker neurons; the bursting cell model described by Butera and others [model 1 in Butera et al. (J Neurophysiol 81:382–397, 1999a)] were used to model the pacemaker neurons. We assumed (1) both pFRG and preBötC networks are rhythm generators, (2) preBötC receives excitatory inputs from pFRG, and pFRG receives inhibitory inputs from preBötC, and (3) persistent Na+ current conductance and synaptic current conductances are randomly distributed within each population. Our model could reproduce 1:1 coupling of bursting rhythms between pFRG and preBötC with the characteristic biphasic firing pattern of pFRG neurons, i.e., firings during pre-inspiratory and post-inspiratory phases. Compatible with experimental results, the model predicted the changes in firing pattern of pFRG neurons from biphasic expiratory to monophasic inspiratory, synchronous with preBötC neurons. Quantal slowing, a phenomena of prolonged respiratory period that jumps non-deterministically to integer multiples of the control period, was observed when the excitability of preBötC network decreased while strengths of synaptic connections between the two groups remained unchanged, suggesting that, in contrast to the earlier suggestions (Mellen et al., Neuron 37:821–826, 2003; Wittmeier et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105(46):18000–18005, 2008), quantal slowing could occur without suppressed or stochastic excitatory synaptic transmission. With a reduced excitability of preBötC network, the breakdown of synchronous bursting of preBötC neurons was predicted by simulation. We suggest that quantal slowing could result from a breakdown of synchronized bursting within the preBötC.
Rhythm coupling; Neuronal networks; Respiratory rhythm generation; Quantal slowing; Numerical simulation
Current consensus holds that a single medullary network generates respiratory rhythm in mammals. Pre-Bötzinger Complex inspiratory (I) neurons, isolated in transverse slices, and preinspiratory (pre-I) neurons, found only in more intact en bloc preparations and in vivo, are each proposed as necessary for rhythm generation. Opioids slow I, but not pre-I, neuronal burst periods. In slices, opioids gradually lengthened respiratory periods, whereas in more intact preparations, periods jumped nondeterministically to integer multiples of the control period (quantal slowing). These findings suggest that opioid-induced quantal slowing results from transmission failure of rhythmic drive from pre-I neurons to preBötC I networks, depressed below threshold for spontaneous rhythmic activity. Thus, both I (in the slice), and pre-I neurons are sufficient for respiratory rhythmogenesis.
The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) is essential for normal respiratory rhythm generation in rodents, for which the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Excitatory preBötC pacemaker neurons are proposed to be necessary for rhythm generation. Here we report the presence of a population of preBötC glycinergic pacemaker neurons. We used rhythmic in vitro transverse slice preparations from transgenic mice where neurons expressing the glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene co-express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). We combined epifluorescence and whole-cell patch-clamp recording to study preBötC EGFP-labeled, i.e., glycinergic, inspiratory-modulated neurons with pacemaker properties. We defined glycinergic pacemaker neurons as those preBötC EGFP neurons that exhibited: 1) ectopic bursting in rhythmic slices when depolarized during their normally silent period, and; 2) bursting when depolarized in non-rhythmic slices (following AMPA receptor blockade). 42% of EGFP-labeled neurons were inspiratory (n=48 of 115), of which 23% (n=11 of 48 inspiratory; 10% of the total recorded) were pacemakers. We conclude that there is a population of preBötC inspiratory-modulated glycinergic, presumably inhibitory, pacemaker neurons that constitute a substantial fraction of all preBötC pacemaker neurons. These findings challenge contemporary models for respiratory rhythmogenesis that assume the excitatory nature of preBötC pacemaker neurons. Testable and non-trivial predictions of the functional role of excitatory and inhibitory pacemaker neurons need to be proposed and the necessary experiments performed.
respiratory rhythm generation; breathing; GlyT2-EGFP mice; glycine; inhibition; Pacemaker
Electrical coupling between neurons with similar properties is often
studied. Nonetheless, the role of electrical coupling between neurons with
widely different intrinsic properties also occurs, but is less well understood.
Inspired by the pacemaker group of the crustacean pyloric network, we developed
a multicompartment, conductance-based model of a small network of intrinsically
distinct, electrically coupled neurons. In the pyloric network, a small
intrinsically bursting neuron, through gap junctions, drives 2 larger, tonically
spiking neurons to reliably burst in-phase with it. Each model neuron has 2
compartments, one responsible for spike generation and the other for producing a
slow, large-amplitude oscillation. We illustrate how these compartments interact
and determine the dynamics of the model neurons. Our model captures the dynamic
oscillation range measured from the isolated and coupled biological neurons. At
the network level, we explore the range of coupling strengths for which
synchronous bursting oscillations are possible. The spatial segregation of ionic
currents significantly enhances the ability of the 2 neurons to burst
synchronously, and the oscillation range of the model pacemaker network depends
not only on the strength of the electrical synapse but also on the identity of
the neuron receiving inputs. We also compare the activity of the electrically
coupled, distinct neurons with that of a network of coupled identical bursting
neurons. For small to moderate coupling strengths, the network of identical
elements, when receiving asymmetrical inputs, can have a smaller dynamic range
of oscillation than that of its constituent neurons in isolation.
Breathing is controlled by a distributed network involving areas in the neocortex, cerebellum, pons, medulla, spinal cord, and various other subcortical regions. However, only one area seems to be essential and sufficient for generating the respiratory rhythm: the preBötzinger complex (preBötC). Lesioning this area abolishes breathing and following isolation in a brain slice the preBötC continues to generate different forms of respiratory activities. The use of slice preparations led to a thorough understanding of the cellular mechanisms that underlie the generation of inspiratory activity within this network. Two types of inward currents, the persistent sodium current (INaP) and the calcium-activated non-specific cation current (ICAN), play important roles in respiratory rhythm generation. These currents give rise to autonomous pacemaker activity within respiratory neurons, leading to the generation of intrinsic spiking and bursting activity. These membrane properties amplify as well as activate synaptic mechanisms that are critical for the initiation and maintenance of inspiratory activity. In this review, we describe the dynamic interplay between synaptic and intrinsic membrane properties in the generation of the respiratory rhythm and we relate these mechanisms to rhythm generating networks involved in other behaviors.
Pacemaker; Respiration; Persistent sodium current; Calcium-activated non-specific cation current; preBötzinger complex; Rhythm generation; Bursting
Experimental studies of neuronal cultures have revealed a wide variety of spiking network activity ranging from sparse, asynchronous firing to distinct, network-wide synchronous bursting. However, the functional mechanisms driving these observed firing patterns are not well understood. In this work, we develop an in silico network of cortical neurons based on known features of similar in vitro networks. The activity from these simulations is found to closely mimic experimental data. Furthermore, the strength or degree of network bursting is found to depend on a few parameters: the density of the culture, the type of synaptic connections, and the ratio of excitatory to inhibitory connections. Network bursting gradually becomes more prominent as either the density, the fraction of long range connections, or the fraction of excitatory neurons is increased. Interestingly, biologically prevalent values of parameters result in networks that are at the transition between strong bursting and sparse firing. Using principal components analysis, we show that a large fraction of the variance in firing rates is captured by the first component for bursting networks. These results have implications for understanding how information is encoded at the population level as well as for why certain network parameters are ubiquitous in cortical tissue.
neuronal cultures; bursting; computer simulations; synchrony; small-world networks
Innovative molecular and genetic techniques have recently led to the identification of genetically defined populations of ipsilaterally projecting excitatory interneurons with probable functions in the rhythm-generating kernel of the central pattern generators (CPGs). The role of interneuronal populations in specific motor function is determined by their synaptic inputs, intrinsic properties, and target neurons. In this review we examine whether Hb9-expressing interneurons (Hb9 INs) fulfill a set of criteria that are the hallmarks of rhythm generators in the locomotor circuitry. Induced locomotor-like activity in this distinct population of ventral interneurons is in phase with bursts of motor activity, raising the possibility that they are part of the locomotor generator. To increase our understanding of the integrative function of Hb9 INs in the locomotor CPG, we investigated the cellular mechanisms underlying their rhythmic activity and examined the properties of synaptic inputs from low-threshold afferents and possible synaptic contacts with segmental motoneurons. Our findings suggest that the rhythmogenic Hb9 INs are integral components of the sensorimotor circuitry that regulate locomotor-like activity in the spinal cord.
locomotor-like rhythms; rhythmogenic interneurons; Hb9 interneurons; rhythm-generating kernel; locomotor central pattern generator; Hb9:eGFP transgenic mouse
Phrenic motoneurons (PMNs) provide a synaptic relay between bulbospinal respiratory pathways and the diaphragm muscle. PMNs also receive propriospinal inputs, although the functional role of these interneuronal projections has not been established. Here we review the literature regarding PMN discharge patterns during breathing and the potential mechanisms that underlie PMN recruitment. Anatomical and neurophysiological studies indicate that PMNs form a heterogeneous pool, with respiratory-related PMN discharge and recruitment patterns likely determined by a balance between intrinsic MN properties and extrinsic synaptic inputs. We also review the limited literature regarding PMN bursting during respiratory plasticity. Differential recruitment or rate modulation of PMN subtypes may underlie phrenic motor plasticity following neural injury and/or respiratory stimulation; however this possibility remains relatively unexplored.
phrenic; diaphragm; motoneuron; respiratory