Bifurcations of limit cycles in a reduced model of the Xenopus tadpole central pattern generator

Andrea Ferrario*, Robert Merrison-Hort, Stephen R. Soffe, Wen-Chang Li, Roman Borisyuk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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We present the study of a minimal microcircuit controlling locomotion in two-day-old Xenopus tadpoles. During swimming, neurons in the spinal central pattern generator (CPG) generate anti-phase oscillations between left and right half-centres. Experimental recordings show that the same CPG neurons can also generate transient bouts of long-lasting in-phase oscillations between left-right centres. These synchronous episodes are rarely recorded and have no identified behavioural purpose. However, metamorphosing tadpoles require both anti-phase and in-phase oscillations for swimming locomotion. Previous models have shown the ability to generate biologically realistic patterns of synchrony and swimming oscillations in tadpoles, but a mathematical description of how these oscillations appear is still missing. We define a simplified model that incorporates the key operating principles of tadpole locomotion. The model generates the various outputs seen in experimental recordings, including swimming and synchrony. To study the model, we perform detailed one- and two-parameter bifurcation analysis. This reveals the critical boundaries that separate different dynamical regimes and demonstrates the existence of parameter regions of bi-stable swimming and synchrony. We show that swimming is stable in a significantly larger range of parameters, and can be initiated more robustly, than synchrony. Our results can explain the appearance of long-lasting synchrony bouts seen in experiments at the start of a swimming episode.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Mathematical Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date18 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jul 2018


  • Bifurcation Analysis
  • Central patter generator
  • Swimming
  • Synchrony
  • Xenopus Tadpole


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