Pacer cell response to periodic Zeitgebers


Almost all organisms show some kind of time periodicity in their behavior. In mammals, the neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus form a biological clock regulating the activity-inactivity cycle of the animal. The main question is how this clock is able to entrain to the natural 24-h light-dark cycle by which it is stimulated. Such a system is usually modelled as a collection of mutually coupled 2-state (active-inactive) phase oscillators with an external stimulus (Zeitgeber). In this article however, we investigate the entrainment of a single pacer cell to the ensemble of other pacer cells. Moreover the stimulus of the ensemble is taken to be periodic. The pacer cell interacts with its environment by phase delay at the end of its activity interval and phase advance at the end of its inactivity interval. We develop a mathematical model for this system, naturally leading to a circle map depending on parameters like the intrinsic period and phase delay and advance. The existence of resonance tongues in a circle map shows that an individual pacer cell is able to synchronize with the ensemble. We furthermore show how the parameters in the model can be related to biological observable quantities. Finally we give several directions of further research.