Mathematical Biology Seminar
Neural networks generate a variety of rhythmic activity patterns, often involving different timescales. One example arises in the respiratory network in the preBötzinger complex of the mammalian brainstem, which can generate the eupneic rhythm associated with normal respiration as well as recurrent low-frequency, large-amplitude bursts associated with sighing. Two competing hypotheses have been proposed to explain sigh generation: the recruitment of a neuronal population distinct from the eupneic rhythm-generating subpopulation or the reconfiguration of activity within a single population. Here, we consider two recent computational models, one of which represents each of the hypotheses. We use methods of dynamical systems theory, such as fast-slow decomposition, averaging, and bifurcation analysis, to understand the multiple timescale mechanisms underlying sigh generation in each model. In the course of our analysis, we discover that a third timescale is required to generate sighs in both models. Furthermore, we identify the similarities of the underlying mechanisms in the two models and the aspects in which they differ.