Sieling FH, Canavier CC, Prinz AA. Predictions of Phase-Locking in Excitatory Hybrid Networks: Excitation Does Not Promote Phase-Locking in Pattern-Generating Networks as Reliably as Inhibition (2009) Journal of Neurophysiology, 102 (1): 69-84.
Phase-locked activity is thought to underlie many high-level functions of the nervous system, the simplest of which are produced by central pattern generators (CPGs). It is not known whether we can define a theoretical framework that is sufficiently general to predict phase-locking in actual biological CPGs, nor is it known why the CPGs that have been characterized are dominated by inhibition. Previously, we applied a method based on phase response curves measured using inputs of biologically realistic amplitude and duration to predict the existence and stability of 1:1 phase-locked modes in hybrid networks of one biological and one model bursting neuron reciprocally connected with artificial inhibitory synapses. Here we extend this analysis to excitatory coupling. Using the pyloric dilator neuron from the stomatogastric ganglion of the American lobster as our biological cell, we experimentally prepared 86 networks using five biological neurons, four model neurons, and heterogeneous synapse strengths between 1 and 10,000 nS. In 77% of networks, our method was robust to biological noise and accurately predicted the phasic relationships. In 3%, our method was inaccurate. The remaining 20% were not amenable to analysis because our theoretical assumptions were violated. The high failure rate for excitation compared with inhibition was due to differential effects of noise and feedback on excitatory versus inhibitory coupling and suggests that CPGs dominated by excitatory synapses would require precise tuning to function, which may explain why CPGs rely primarily on inhibitory synapses.