New paper: Reaction-diffusion models of spontaneous neural activity in the developing retina

A novel reaction-diffusion model, using non-linear wave theory, to better understand how retinal waves form and spread in the developing retina.

Prior to receiving visual stimuli, spontaneous, correlated activity in the retina, called retinal waves, drives activity-dependent developmental programs. Early-stage waves mediated by acetylcholine (ACh) manifest as slow, spreading bursts of action potentials. They are believed to be initiated by the spontaneous firing of Starburst Amacrine Cells (SACs), whose dense, recurrent connectivity then propagates this activity laterally. Their inter-wave interval and shifting wave boundaries are the result of the slow after-hyperpolarization of the SACs creating an evolving mosaic of recruitable and refractory cells, which can and cannot participate in waves, respectively. Recent evidence suggests that cholinergic waves may be modulated by the extracellular concentration of ACh. Here, we construct a simplified, biophysically consistent, reaction-diffusion model of cholinergic retinal waves capable of recapitulating wave dynamics observed in mice retina recordings. We are thus able to use non-linear wave theory to connect wave features to underlying physiological parameters, making the model useful in determining appropriate pharmacological manipulations to experimentally produce waves of a prescribed spatiotemporal character.

Lansdell B, Ford K, Kutz JN PLoS computational biology 2014