Oscillatory neural networks

Annu Rev Physiol. 1985;47:29-48. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ph.47.030185.000333.


Despite the fact that a large number of neuronal oscillators have been described, there are only a few good examples that illustrate how they operate at the cellular level. For most, there is some isolated information about different aspects of the oscillator network, but too little to explain the whole mechanism. Two quite remarkable features do seem to be emerging from ongoing studies, however. One is that there are very few generalizable features common to neural oscillators. Many utilize reciprocal inhibitory circuits and endogenous burst-generating currents to some extent. All that have been well worked out utilize a combination of both cellular and network properties, but little else in the way of common mechanism is noteworthy. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of recent work is the ability of a particular oscillator to produce a large repertoire of different outputs. This is separate and in addition to changes occurring via phasic sensory feedback. It is in fact a radical functional "rewiring" of the network in response to neuromodulators. The CPG circuits represent only the most basic form of a given pattern. Finally, concerning the role of sensory feedback in generating oscillatory patterns, the concept of the CPG as a group of neurons able to produce oscillatory patterns without any sensory feedback is, in our opinion, still valid. There is no doubt that some oscillators may be quite weak when isolated, but they can still produce bursts with firing sequences similar to those seen in vivo. The fact that sensory feedback can both control and enhance the oscillations has never been in doubt. Similarly, entrainment of the pattern by sensory feedback does not mean that the receptor is part of the generator, only that it has access to it (as do command and coordinating fibers). The real question remains: Can a group of cells produce an oscillatory pattern without phasic sensory input? We must answer this affirmatively even for the insect-flight motor CPG, while emphasizing the fact that for this system sensory feedback plays a larger role than in most other CPGs. Most neural oscillators will probably fall on some continuum between those like insect flight, which need and use a large amount of phasic feedback, and those that can oscillate in a near-normal manner without it.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Electrophysiology
  • Ganglia / physiology
  • Heart / innervation
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Leeches / physiology
  • Mollusca / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Nephropidae / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Periodicity*
  • Pylorus / innervation
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission