Health & Human Kinetics Faculty Work

Understanding Spatial and Temporal Patterning of Astrocyte Calcium Transients Via Interactions Between Network Transport and Extracellular Diffusion

Christian Fink, Ohio Wesleyan University
E. Shtrahman
D. Maruyama
E. Olariu
M. Zochowski


Astrocytes form interconnected networks in the brain and communicate via calcium signaling. We investigate how modes of coupling between astrocytes influence the spatio-temporal patterns of calcium signaling within astrocyte networks and specifically how these network interactions promote coordination within this group of cells. To investigate these complex phenomena, we study reduced cultured networks of astrocytes and neurons. We image the spatial temporal patterns of astrocyte calcium activity and quantify how perturbing the coupling between astrocytes influences astrocyte activity patterns. To gain insight into the pattern formation observed in these cultured networks, we compare the experimentally observed calcium activity patterns to the patterns produced by a reduced computational model, where we represent astrocytes as simple units that integrate input through two mechanisms: gap junction coupling (network transport) and chemical release (extracellular diffusion). We examine the activity patterns in the simulated astrocyte network and their dependence upon these two coupling mechanisms. We find that gap junctions and extracellular chemical release interact in astrocyte networks to modulate the spatiotemporal patterns of their calcium dynamics. We show agreement between the computational and experimental findings, which suggests that the complex global patterns can be understood as a result of simple local coupling mechanisms.