This study focuses on computational and theoretical investigations of neuronal activity arising in the pre-Bӧtzinger complex (pre-BӧtC), a medullary region generating the inspiratory phase of breathing in mammals. A progressive increase of neuronal excitability in medullary slices containing the pre-BӧtC produces mixed-mode oscillations (MMOs) characterized by large amplitude population bursts alternating with a series of small amplitude bursts. Using two different computational models, we demonstrate that MMOs emerge within a heterogeneous excitatory neural network because of progressive neuronal recruitment and synchronization. The MMO pattern depends on the distributed neuronal excitability, the density and weights of network interconnections, and the cellular properties underlying endogenous bursting. Critically, the latter should provide a reduction of spiking frequency within neuronal bursts with increasing burst frequency and a dependence of the after-burst recovery period on burst amplitude. Our study highlights a novel mechanism by which heterogeneity naturally leads to complex dynamics in rhythmic neuronal populations.
- Jan-Marino Ramirez, Seattle Children's Research Institute and University of Washington, United States
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