Oscillations in network activity are ubiquitous in the brain and are involved in diverse cognitive functions. Oscillation characteristics, such as power, frequency, and temporal structure, depend on both network connectivity and intrinsic cellular properties, such as ion channel composition. An important class of channels, with key roles in regulating cell excitability, are h-channels. The h-current (Ih) is a slow, hyperpolarization-activated, depolarizing current that contributes to neuronal resonance and membrane potential. The impact of Ih on network oscillations, however, remains poorly understood. To elucidate the network effects of Ih, we used a computational model of a generic oscillatory neuronal network consisting of inhibitory and excitatory cells that were externally driven by excitatory action potentials and sustained depolarizing currents. We found that Ih increased the oscillation frequency and, in combination with external action potentials, representing input from areas outside the network, strongly decreased the synchrony of firing. As a consequence, the oscillation power and the duration of episodes during which the network exhibited high-amplitude oscillations were greatly reduced in the presence of Ih. Our results suggest that modulation of Ih or impaired expression of h-channels, as observed in epilepsy, could, by affecting oscillation dynamics, markedly alter network-level activity and potentially influence oscillation-dependent cognitive processes such as learning, memory and attention.
Keywords: amplitude fluctuations; computational model; h-channels; oscillations; synchrony.