A common role for astrocytes in rhythmic behaviours?

Matthew J. Broadhead*, Gareth B. Miles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Astrocytes are a functionally diverse form of glial cell involved in various aspects of nervous system infrastructure, from the metabolic and structural support of neurons to direct neuromodulation of synaptic activity. Investigating how astrocytes behave in functionally related circuits may help us understand whether there is any conserved logic to the role of astrocytes within neuronal networks. Astrocytes are implicated as key neuromodulatory cells within neural circuits that control a number of rhythmic behaviours such as breathing, locomotion and circadian sleep-wake cycles. In this review, we examine the evidence that astrocytes are directly involved in the regulation of the neural circuits underlying six different rhythmic behaviours: locomotion, breathing, chewing, gastrointestinal motility, circadian sleep-wake cycles and oscillatory feeding behaviour. We discuss how astrocytes are integrated into the neuronal networks that regulate these behaviours, and identify the potential gliotransmission signalling mechanisms involved. From reviewing the evidence of astrocytic involvement in a range of rhythmic behaviours, we reveal a heterogenous array of gliotransmission mechanisms, which help to regulate neuronal networks. However, we also observe an intriguing thread of commonality, in the form of purinergic gliotransmission, which is frequently utilised to facilitate feedback inhibition within rhythmic networks to constrain a given behaviour within its operational range.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102052
Number of pages17
JournalProgress in Neurobiology
Early online date21 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Astrocyte
  • Gliotransmission
  • Rhythmic neural networks
  • Purines
  • Locomotion
  • Respiration


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