The generation of phase differences and frequency changes in a network model of inferior olive subthreshold oscillations
It is commonly accepted that the Inferior Olive (IO) provides a timing signal to the cerebellum. Stable subthreshold oscillations in the IO can facilitate accurate timing by phase-locking spikes to the peaks of the oscillation. Several theoretical models accounting for the synchronized subthreshold oscillations have been proposed, however, two experimental observations remain an enigma. The first is the observation of frequent alterations in the frequency of the oscillations. The second is the observation of constant phase differences between simultaneously recorded neurons. In order to account for these two observations we constructed a canonical network model based on anatomical and physiological data from the IO. The constructed network is characterized by clustering of neurons with similar conductance densities, and by electrical coupling between neurons. Neurons inside a cluster are densely connected with weak strengths, while neurons belonging to different clusters are sparsely connected with stronger connections. We found that this type of network can robustly display stable subthreshold oscillations. The overall frequency of the network changes with the strength of the inter-cluster connections, and phase differences occur between neurons of different clusters. Moreover, the phase differences provide a mechanistic explanation for the experimentally observed propagating waves of activity in the IO. We conclude that the architecture of the network of electrically coupled neurons in combination with modulation of the inter-cluster coupling strengths can account for the experimentally observed frequency changes and the phase differences.