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When inhibition not excitation synchronizes neural firing

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Excitatory and inhibitory synaptic coupling can have counter-intuitive effects on the synchronization of neuronal firing. While it might appear that excitatory coupling would lead to synchronization, we show that frequently inhibition rather than excitation synchronizes firing. We study two identical neurons described by integrate-and-fire models, general phase-coupled models or the Hodgkin-Huxley model with mutual, non-instantaneous excitatory or inhibitory synapses between them. We find that if the rise time of the synapse is longer than the duration of an action potential, inhibition not excitation leads to synchronized firing.

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Van Vreeswijk, C., Abbott, L.F. & Bard Ermentrout, G. When inhibition not excitation synchronizes neural firing. J Comput Neurosci 1, 313–321 (1994).

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