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MiS Preprint

Computational modeling of spike generation in serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus

Henry Tuckwell and Nicholas Penington


Serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus, with their extensive innervation of limbic and higher brain regions and intreractions with the endocrine system have important modulatory or regulatory effects on many cognitive, emotional and physiological processes. They have been strongly implicated in responses to stress and in the occurrence of major depressive disorder and other pyschiatric disorders. In order to quantify some of these effects, detailed mathematical models of the activity of such cells are required which describe their complex neurochemistry and neurophysiology.

As a first step, we consider here a single-compartment model of these neurons which is capable of describing many of the known features of spike generation, particularly the slow rhythmic pacemaking activity often observed in these cells in a variety of species. Included in the model are ten kinds of voltage dependent ion channnels as well as calcium-dependent potassium current. Calcium dynamics includes buffering and pumping. In sections 3-9, each component is considered in detail and parameters estimated from voltage clamp data where possible. In the next two sections simplified versions of some components are employed to explore the effects of various parameters on spiking, using a systematic approach, ending up with the following eleven components: a fast sodium current $I_{Na}$, a delayed rectifier potassium current $I_{KDR}$, a transient potassium current $I_A$, a low-threshold calcium current $I_T$, two high threshold calcium currents $I_L$ and $I_N$, small and large conductance potassium currents $I_{SK}$ and $I_{BK}$, a hyperpolarization-activated cation current $I_H$, a leak current $I_{Leak}$ and intracellular calcium ion concentration $Ca_i$.

Attention is focused on the properties usually associated with these neurons, particularly long duration of action potential, pacemaker-like spiking and the ramp-like return to threshold after a spike. In some cases the membrane potential trajectories display doublets or have kinks or notches as have been reported in some experimental studies. The computed time courses of $I_A$ and $I_T$ during the interspike interval support the generally held view of a competition between them in influencing the frequency of spiking. Spontaneous spiking could be obtained with small changes in a few parameters from their values with driven spiking. Spontaneous activity was facilitated by the presence of $I_H$ which has been found in these neurons by some investigators. For reasonable sets of parameters spike frequencies between about 0.6 Hz and 1.2 Hz are obtained. Anodal break phenomena predicted by the model are in agreement with experiment. There is a considerable discussion of in vitro versus in vivo firing behavior, with focus on the roles of noradrenergic input, corticotropin-releasing factor and orexinergic inputs. Location of cells within the nucleus is probably a major factor, along with the state of the animal.

Computational model, Dorsal raphe nucleus, Serotonin

Related publications

2014 Repository Open Access
Henry C. Tuckwell and Nicholas Penington

Computational modeling of spike generation in serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus

In: Progress in neurobiology, 118 (2014), pp. 59-101