Modeling the Intersegmental Coordination of Heart Motor Neurons in the Medicinal Leech
Garcia, Paul Anthony
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We constructed a model of the coordination of segmental heart motor neurons driving blood circulation in leeches. The heart motor neuron models were conductance-based; conductances of voltage-gated and synaptic currents were adjusted to match the firing pattern of heart motor neurons from the living system. Each motor neuron receives a specific pattern of inhibitory input from rhythmic premotor heart interneurons and translates this spatiotemporal pattern into the fictive heartbeat motor pattern. The temporal pattern of synaptic input to the model was derived from extracellularly recorded spikes of the premotor heart interneurons. We focused on determining the components necessary to produce side-to-side asymmetry in the motor pattern: motor neurons on one side fire nearly in synchrony (synchronous coordination), while on the other they fire in a rear-to-front progression (peristaltic coordination). The model reproduces the general trends in phasing and was used to investigate the effective contribution of several synaptic and cellular properties of the motor neurons. The spatial and temporal pattern of premotor synaptic input, the electrical coupling between the segmental motor neurons, intra-burst, short-term synaptic plasticity of the synaptic inputs, and the axonal conduction delays all were integrated with the intrinsic membrane properties to influence intersegmental phasing.