Synchronization and entrainment of coupled circadian oscillators

Komin, Niko; Murza, Adrian C.; Hernandez-Garcia, Emilio; Toral , Raul
Interface Focus 1, 167-176 (2011)

Circadian rhythms in mammals are controlled by the neurons located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. In physiological conditions, the system of neurons is very efficiently entrained by the 24-hour light-dark cycle. Most of the studies carried out so far emphasize the crucial role of the periodicity imposed by the light dark cycle in neuronal synchronization. Nevertheless, heterogeneity as a natural and permanent ingredient of these cellular interactions is seemingly to play a major role in these biochemical processes. In this paper we use a model that considers the neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus as chemically-coupled modified Goodwin oscillators, and introduce non-negligible heterogeneity in the periods of all neurons in the form of quenched noise. The system response to the light-dark cycle periodicity is studied as a function of the interneuronal coupling strength, external forcing amplitude and neuronal heterogeneity. Our results indicate that the right amount of heterogeneity helps the extended system to respond globally in a more coherent way to the external forcing. Our proposed mechanism for neuronal synchronization under external periodic forcing is based on heterogeneity-induced oscillators death, damped oscillators being more entrainable by the external forcing than the self-oscillating neurons with different periods.

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