Date of Award

Fall 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematical Sciences - (Ph.D.)


Mathematical Sciences

First Advisor

Victor Victorovich Matveev

Second Advisor

Amitabha Koshal Bose

Third Advisor

Farzan Nadim

Fourth Advisor

Jorge P. Golowasch

Fifth Advisor

Camelia Prodan


Synchronization of excitable cells coupled by reciprocal inhibition is a topic of significant interest due to the important role that inhibitory synaptic interaction plays in the generation and regulation of coherent rhythmic activity in a variety of neural systems. While recent work revealed the synchronizing influence of inhibitory coupling on the dynamics of many networks, it is known that strong coupling can destabilize phase-locked firing. Here we examine the loss of synchrony caused by an increase in inhibitory coupling in networks of type-I Morris-Lecar model oscillators, which is characterized by a period-doubling cascade and leads to mode-locked states with alternation in the firing order of the two cells, as reported recently by Maran and Canavier (2007) for a network of Wang-Buzsáki model neurons. Although alternating- order firing has been previously reported as a near-synchronous state, we show that the stable phase difference between the spikes of the two Morris-Lecar cells can constitute as much as 70% of the unperturbed oscillation period. Further, we examine the generality of this phenomenon for a class of type-I oscillators that are close to their excitation thresholds, and provide an intuitive geometric description of such "leap-frog" dynamics. In the Morris-Lecar model network, the alternation in the firing order arises under the condition of fast closing of K+ channels at hyperpolarized potentials, which leads to slow dynamics of membrane potential upon synaptic inhibition, allowing the presynaptic cell to advance past the postsynaptic cell in each cycle of the oscillation. Further, we show that non-zero synaptic decay time is crucial for the existence of leap-frog firing in networks of phase oscillators. However, we demonstrate that leap-frog spiking can also be obtained in pulse-coupled inhibitory networks of one-dimensional oscillators with a multi-branched phase domain, for instance in a network of quadratic integrate-and-fire model cells. Also, we show that the entire bifurcation structure of the network can be explained by a simple scaling of the STRC (spike- time response curve) amplitude, using a simplified quadratic STRC as an example, and derive the general conditions on the shape of the STRC function that leads to leap-frog firing. Further, for the case of a homogeneous network, we establish quantitative conditions on the phase resetting properties of each cell necessary for stable alternating-order spiking, complementing the analysis of Goel and Ermentrout (2002) of the order-preserving phase transition map. We show that the extension of STRC to negative values of phase is necessary to predict the response of a model cell to several close non-weak perturbations. This allows us for instance to accurately describe the dynamics of non-weakly coupled network of three model cells. Finally, the phase return map is also extended to the heterogenous network, and is used to analyze both the order-alternating firing and the order-preserving non-zero phase locked state in this case.

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