Built to Last: Functional and Structural Mechanisms in the Moth Olfactory Network Mitigate Effects of Neural Injury

Charles B. Delahunt, Pedro D. Maia, J. Nathan Kutz
2021 Brain Sciences  
Most organisms suffer neuronal damage throughout their lives, which can impair performance of core behaviors. Their neural circuits need to maintain function despite injury, which in particular requires preserving key system outputs. In this work, we explore whether and how certain structural and functional neuronal network motifs act as injury mitigation mechanisms. Specifically, we examine how (i) Hebbian learning, (ii) high levels of noise, and (iii) parallel inhibitory and excitatory
more » ... ions contribute to the robustness of the olfactory system in the Manduca sexta moth. We simulate injuries on a detailed computational model of the moth olfactory network calibrated to data. The injuries are modeled on focal axonal swellings, a ubiquitous form of axonal pathology observed in traumatic brain injuries and other brain disorders. Axonal swellings effectively compromise spike train propagation along the axon, reducing the effective neural firing rate delivered to downstream neurons. All three of the network motifs examined significantly mitigate the effects of injury on readout neurons, either by reducing injury's impact on readout neuron responses or by restoring these responses to pre-injury levels. These motifs may thus be partially explained by their value as adaptive mechanisms to minimize the functional effects of neural injury. More generally, robustness to injury is a vital design principle to consider when analyzing neural systems.
doi:10.3390/brainsci11040462 pmid:33916469 pmcid:PMC8067361 fatcat:3xug45lb5ngbjgmbi3twafwrie