Neural Network Simulations of Coupled Locomotor Oscillators in the Lamprey Spinal Cord
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The segmental locomotor network in the lamprey spinal cord was simulated on a computer using a connectionist-type neural network. The cells of the network were identical except for their excitatory levels and their synaptic connections. The synaptic connections used were based on previous experimental work. It was demonstrated that the connectivity of the circuit is capable of generating oscillatory activity with the appropriate phase relations among the cells. Intersegmental coordination was explored by coupling two identical segmental networks using only the cells of the network. Each of the possible couplings of a bilateral pair of cells in one oscillator with a bilateral pair of cells in the other oscillator produced stable phase locking of the two oscillators. The degree of phase difference was dependent upon synaptic weight, and the operating range of synaptic weights varied among the pairs of connections. The coupling was tested using several criteria from experimental work on the lamprey spinal cord. Coupling schemes involving several pairs of connecting cells were found which 1) achieved steadystate phase locking within a single cycle, 2) exhibited constant phase differences over a wide range of cycle periods, and 3) maintained stable phase locking in spite of large differences in the intrinsic frequencies of the two oscillators. It is concluded that the synaptic connectivity plays a large role in producing oscillations in this network and that it is not necessary to postulate a separate set of coordinating neurons between oscillators in order to achieve appropriate phase coupling.