Chemical and electrical synapses perform complementary roles in the synchronization of interneuronal networks

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 26;101(43):15482-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0406343101. Epub 2004 Oct 15.


Electrical and chemical synapses exist within the same networks of inhibitory cells, and each kind of synapse is known to be able to foster synchrony among oscillating neurons. Using numerical and analytical techniques, we show here that the electrical and inhibitory coupling play different roles in the synchronization of rhythms in inhibitory networks. The parameter range chosen is motivated by gamma rhythms, in which the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA)-mediated inhibition is relatively strong. Under this condition, addition of a small electrical conductance can increase the degree of synchronization far more than a much larger increase in inhibitory conductance. The inhibitory synapses act to eliminate the effects of different initial conditions, whereas the electrical synapses mitigate suppression of firing due to heterogeneity in the network. Analytical techniques include tracking trajectories of coupled cells between spikes; the analysis shows that, in networks in which the degree of excitability is heterogeneous, inhibition can increase the dispersion of the voltages between spikes, whereas electrical coupling reduces such dispersion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Nerve Net
  • Synapses / physiology*