How sensory information influences the dynamics of rhythm generation varies across systems, and general principles for understanding this aspect of motor control are lacking. Determining the origin of respiratory rhythm generation is challenging because the mechanisms in a central circuit considered in isolation may be different from those in the intact organism. We analyze a closed-loop respiratory control model incorporating a central pattern generator (CPG), the Butera-Rinzel-Smith (BRS) model, together with lung mechanics, oxygen handling, and chemosensory components. We show that 1) embedding the BRS model neuron in a control loop creates a bistable system; 2) although closed-loop and open-loop (isolated) CPG systems both support eupnea-like bursting activity, they do so via distinct mechanisms; 3) chemosensory feedback in the closed loop improves robustness to variable metabolic demand; 4) the BRS model conductances provide an autoresuscitation mechanism for recovery from transient interruption of chemosensory feedback; and 5) the in vitro brain stem CPG slice responds to hypoxia with transient bursting that is qualitatively similar to in silico autoresuscitation. Bistability of bursting and tonic spiking in the closed-loop system corresponds to coexistence of eupnea-like breathing, with normal minute ventilation and blood oxygen level and a tachypnea-like state, with pathologically reduced minute ventilation and critically low blood oxygen. Disruption of the normal breathing rhythm, through either imposition of hypoxia or interruption of chemosensory feedback, can push the system from the eupneic state into the tachypneic state. We use geometric singular perturbation theory to analyze the system dynamics at the boundary separating eupnea-like and tachypnea-like outcomes. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A common challenge facing rhythmic biological processes is the adaptive regulation of central pattern generator (CPG) activity in response to sensory feedback. We apply dynamical systems tools to understand several properties of a closed-loop respiratory control model, including the coexistence of normal and pathological breathing, robustness to changes in metabolic demand, spontaneous autoresuscitation in response to hypoxia, and the distinct mechanisms that underlie rhythmogenesis in the intact control circuit vs. the isolated, open-loop CPG.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Central pattern generator
- Closed-loop control model
- Respiratory rhythm