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Rubin, Jonathan (Ed.)Theta and gamma rhythms and their cross-frequency coupling play critical roles in perception, attention, learning, and memory. Available data suggest that forebrain acetylcholine (ACh) signaling promotes theta-gamma coupling, although the mechanism has not been identified. Recent evidence suggests that cholinergic signaling is both temporally and spatially constrained, in contrast to the traditional notion of slow, spatially homogeneous, and diffuse neuromodulation. Here, we find that spatially constrained cholinergic stimulation can generate theta-modulated gamma rhythms. Using biophysically-based excitatory-inhibitory (E-I) neural network models, we simulate the effects of ACh on neural excitability by varying the conductance of a muscarinic receptor-regulated K + current. In E-I networks with local excitatory connectivity and global inhibitory connectivity, we demonstrate that theta-gamma-coupled firing patterns emerge in ACh modulated network regions. Stable gamma-modulated firing arises within regions with high ACh signaling, while theta or mixed theta-gamma activity occurs at the peripheries of these regions. High gamma activity also alternates between different high-ACh regions, at theta frequency. Our results are the first to indicate a causal role for spatially heterogenous ACh signaling in the emergence of localized theta-gamma rhythmicity. Our findings also provide novel insights into mechanisms by which ACh signaling supports the brain region-specific attentional processing of sensory information.more » « less
Recent experimental results have shown that the detection of cues in behavioral attention tasks relies on transient increases of acetylcholine (ACh) release in frontal cortex and cholinergically driven oscillatory activity in the gamma frequency band (Howe et al. Journal of Neuroscience, 2017, 37, 3215). The cue‐induced gamma rhythmic activity requires stimulation of M1 muscarinic receptors. Using biophysical computational modeling, we show that a network of excitatory (E) and inhibitory (I) neurons that initially displays asynchronous firing can generate transient gamma oscillatory activity in response to simulated brief pulses of ACh. ACh effects are simulated as transient modulation of the conductance of an M‐type K+current which is blocked by activation of muscarinic receptors and has significant effects on neuronal excitability. The ACh‐induced effects on the M current conductance,
gKs, change network dynamics to promote the emergence of network gamma rhythmicity through a Pyramidal‐Interneuronal Network Gamma mechanism. Depending on connectivity strengths between and among E and I cells, gamma activity decays with the simulated gKstransient modulation or is sustained in the network after the gKstransient has completely dissipated. We investigated the sensitivity of the emergent gamma activity to synaptic strengths, external noise and simulated levels of gKsmodulation. To address recent experimental findings that cholinergic signaling is likely spatially focused and dynamic, we show that localized gKsmodulation can induce transient changes of cellular excitability in local subnetworks, subsequently causing population‐specific gamma oscillations. These results highlight dynamical mechanisms underlying localization of ACh‐driven responses and suggest that spatially localized, cholinergically induced gamma may contribute to selectivity in the processing of competing external stimuli, as occurs in attentional tasks.