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Bursts of information: oscillations, coupled oscillators, and coordinated locomotion

Mathematical Biology

Speaker: Brian Mulloney, NPB, UC Davis
Location: 693 Kerr
Start time: Thu, Oct 27 2005, 4:10PM

Effective behaviors demand that sequences of movements by different parts of the body be coordinated so that the mechanical forces that are the immediate causes of these behaviors come into play at optimal times. It is remarkable that for many behaviors the central nervous system can achieve the core features of this coordination without peripheral feedback. In few cases, however, do we have any idea how the CNS does this, or even what components of the CNS are essential for this coordination. We have used a combined experimental, computational, and theoretical approach to analyze the performance of one nervous system that drives forward swimming. The goal is to explain in cellular terms the dynamic performance of this nervous system. This system consists of eight local oscillators that are coupled by a small set of coordinating neurons. From experimental work we know the key components of the local circuits and the coordinating circuit. Theoretical analysis revealed some general properties of this circuit. The dynamics of a set of alternative computational models suggested that one particular pattern of connections between local circuits allows the model to perform as does the CNS. Subsequent experimental tests of assumptions central to these models have laid the foundations for the next generation of cellular models.