Health & Human Kinetics Faculty Work

A Dynamical Role for Acetylcholine in Synaptic Renormalization

Christian Fink, Ohio Wesleyan University
Geoffrey Murphy
Michal Zochowski
Victoria Booth


Although sleep is a fundamental behavior observed in virtually all animal species, its functions remain unclear. One leading proposal, known as the synaptic renormalization hypothesis, suggests that sleep is necessary to counteract a global strengthening of synapses that occurs during wakefulness. Evidence for sleep-dependent synaptic downscaling (or synaptic renormalization) has been observed experimentally, but the physiological mechanisms which generate this phenomenon are unknown. In this study, we propose that changes in neuronal membrane excitability induced by acetylcholine may provide a dynamical mechanism for both wake-dependent synaptic upscaling and sleep-dependent downscaling. We show in silico that cholinergically-induced changes in network firing patterns alter overall network synaptic potentiation when synaptic strengths evolve through spike-timing dependent plasticity mechanisms. Specifically, network synaptic potentiation increases dramatically with high cholinergic concentration and decreases dramatically with low levels of acetylcholine. We demonstrate that this phenomenon is robust across variation of many different network parameters.