Date of Award

8-8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mathematics and Statistics

First Advisor

Igor Belykh

Second Advisor

Vladimir Bondarenko

Third Advisor

Yaroslav Molkov

Fourth Advisor

Michael Stewart

Abstract

Synchronized cortical activities in the central nervous systems of mammals are crucial for sensory perception, coordination, and locomotory function. The neuronal mechanisms that generate synchronous synaptic inputs in the neocortex are far from being fully understood. This thesis contributes toward an understanding of the emergence of synchronization in networks of bursting neurons as a highly nontrivial, combined effect of chemical and electrical connections. The first part of this thesis addresses the onset of synchronization in networks of bursting neurons coupled via both excitatory and inhibitory connections. We show that the addition of pairwise repulsive inhibition to excitatory networks of bursting neurons induces synchrony, in contrast to one’s expectations. Through stability analysis, we reveal the mechanism underlying this purely synergistic phenomenon and demonstrates that it originates from the transition between different types of bursting, caused by excitatory-inhibitory synaptic coupling. We also report a universal scaling law for the synchronization stability condition for large networks in terms of the number of excitatory and inhibitory inputs each neuron receives, regardless of the network size and topology. In the second part of this thesis, we show that similar effects are also observed in other models of bursting neurons, capable of switching from square-wave to plateau bursting. Finally, in the third part, we report a counterintuitive find that combined electrical and inhibitory coupling can synergistically induce robust synchronization in a range of parameters where electrical coupling alone promotes anti-phase spiking and inhibition induces anti-phase bursting. We reveal the underlying mechanism which uses a balance between hidden properties of electrical and inhibitory coupling to act together to synchronize neuronal bursting. We show that this balance is controlled by the duty cycle of the self-coupled system which governs the synchronized bursting rhythm. This work has potential implications for understanding the emergence of abnormal synchrony in epileptic brain networks. It suggests that promoting presumably desynchronizing inhibition in an attempt to prevent seizures can have a counterproductive effect and induce abnormal synchronous firing.

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