PLoS Computational Biology

Publishing science
  • Correction: Environmental Statistics and Optimal Regulation
    [Oct 2014]

    by The PLOS Computational Biology Staff

    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Ten Simple Rules for Writing a PLOS Ten Simple Rules Article
    [Oct 2014]

    by Harriet Dashnow, Andrew Lonsdale, Philip E. Bourne

    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Ensembles of Spiking Neurons with Noise Support Optimal Probabilistic Inference in a Dynamically Changing Environment
    [Oct 2014]

    by Robert Legenstein, Wolfgang Maass

    It has recently been shown that networks of spiking neurons with noise can emulate simple forms of probabilistic inference through “neural sampling”, i.e., by treating spikes as samples from a probability distribution of network states that is encoded in the network. Deficiencies of the existing model are its reliance on single neurons for sampling from each random variable, and the resulting limitation in representing quickly varying probabilistic information. We show that both deficiencies can be overcome by moving to a biologically more realistic encoding of each salient random variable through the stochastic firing activity of an ensemble of neurons. The resulting model demonstrates that networks of spiking neurons with noise can easily track and carry out basic computational operations on rapidly varying probability distributions, such as the odds of getting rewarded for a specific behavior. We demonstrate the viability of this new approach towards neural coding and computation, which makes use of the inherent parallelism of generic neural circuits, by showing that this model can explain experimentally observed firing activity of cortical neurons for a variety of tasks that require rapid temporal integration of sensory information.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Linking Macroscopic with Microscopic Neuroanatomy Using Synthetic Neuronal Populations
    [Oct 2014]

    by Calvin J. Schneider, Hermann Cuntz, Ivan Soltesz

    Dendritic morphology has been shown to have a dramatic impact on neuronal function. However, population features such as the inherent variability in dendritic morphology between cells belonging to the same neuronal type are often overlooked when studying computation in neural networks. While detailed models for morphology and electrophysiology exist for many types of single neurons, the role of detailed single cell morphology in the population has not been studied quantitatively or computationally. Here we use the structural context of the neural tissue in which dendritic trees exist to drive their generation in silico. We synthesize the entire population of dentate gyrus granule cells, the most numerous cell type in the hippocampus, by growing their dendritic trees within their characteristic dendritic fields bounded by the realistic structural context of (1) the granule cell layer that contains all somata and (2) the molecular layer that contains the dendritic forest. This process enables branching statistics to be linked to larger scale neuroanatomical features. We find large differences in dendritic total length and individual path length measures as a function of location in the dentate gyrus and of somatic depth in the granule cell layer. We also predict the number of unique granule cell dendrites invading a given volume in the molecular layer. This work enables the complete population-level study of morphological properties and provides a framework to develop complex and realistic neural network models.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Regression Analysis of Combined Gene Expression Regulation in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
    [Oct 2014]

    by Yue Li, Minggao Liang, Zhaolei Zhang

    Gene expression is a combinatorial function of genetic/epigenetic factors such as copy number variation (CNV), DNA methylation (DM), transcription factors (TF) occupancy, and microRNA (miRNA) post-transcriptional regulation. At the maturity of microarray/sequencing technologies, large amounts of data measuring the genome-wide signals of those factors became available from Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). However, there is a lack of an integrative model to take full advantage of these rich yet heterogeneous data. To this end, we developed RACER (Regression Analysis of Combined Expression Regulation), which fits the mRNA expression as response using as explanatory variables, the TF data from ENCODE, and CNV, DM, miRNA expression signals from TCGA. Briefly, RACER first infers the sample-specific regulatory activities by TFs and miRNAs, which are then used as inputs to infer specific TF/miRNA-gene interactions. Such a two-stage regression framework circumvents a common difficulty in integrating ENCODE data measured in generic cell-line with the sample-specific TCGA measurements. As a case study, we integrated Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) data from TCGA and the related TF binding data measured in K562 from ENCODE. As a proof-of-concept, we first verified our model formalism by 10-fold cross-validation on predicting gene expression. We next evaluated RACER on recovering known regulatory interactions, and demonstrated its superior statistical power over existing methods in detecting known miRNA/TF targets. Additionally, we developed a feature selection procedure, which identified 18 regulators, whose activities clustered consistently with cytogenetic risk groups. One of the selected regulators is miR-548p, whose inferred targets were significantly enriched for leukemia-related pathway, implicating its novel role in AML pathogenesis. Moreover, survival analysis using the inferred activities identified C-Fos as a potential AML prognostic marker. Together, we provided a novel framework that successfully integrated the TCGA and ENCODE data in revealing AML-specific regulatory program at global level.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Energy Landscape of All-Atom Protein-Protein Interactions Revealed by Multiscale Enhanced Sampling
    [Oct 2014]

    by Kei Moritsugu, Tohru Terada, Akinori Kidera

    Protein-protein interactions are regulated by a subtle balance of complicated atomic interactions and solvation at the interface. To understand such an elusive phenomenon, it is necessary to thoroughly survey the large configurational space from the stable complex structure to the dissociated states using the all-atom model in explicit solvent and to delineate the energy landscape of protein-protein interactions. In this study, we carried out a multiscale enhanced sampling (MSES) simulation of the formation of a barnase-barstar complex, which is a protein complex characterized by an extraordinary tight and fast binding, to determine the energy landscape of atomistic protein-protein interactions. The MSES adopts a multicopy and multiscale scheme to enable for the enhanced sampling of the all-atom model of large proteins including explicit solvent. During the 100-ns MSES simulation of the barnase-barstar system, we observed the association-dissociation processes of the atomistic protein complex in solution several times, which contained not only the native complex structure but also fully non-native configurations. The sampled distributions suggest that a large variety of non-native states went downhill to the stable complex structure, like a fast folding on a funnel-like potential. This funnel landscape is attributed to dominant configurations in the early stage of the association process characterized by near-native orientations, which will accelerate the native inter-molecular interactions. These configurations are guided mostly by the shape complementarity between barnase and barstar, and lead to the fast formation of the final complex structure along the downhill energy landscape.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Rhythmic Manipulation of Objects with Complex Dynamics: Predictability over Chaos
    [Oct 2014]

    by Bahman Nasseroleslami, Christopher J. Hasson, Dagmar Sternad

    The study of object manipulation has been largely confined to discrete tasks, where accuracy, mechanical effort, or smoothness were examined to explain subjects' preferred movements. This study investigated a rhythmic manipulation task, which involved continuous interaction with a nonlinear object that led to unpredictable object behavior. Using a simplified virtual version of the task of carrying a cup of coffee, we studied how this unpredictable object behavior affected the selected strategies. The experiment was conducted in a virtual set-up, where subjects moved a cup with a ball inside, modeled by cart-and-pendulum dynamics. Inverse dynamics calculations of the system showed that performing the task with different amplitudes and relative phases required different force profiles and rendered the object's dynamics with different degrees of predictability (quantified by Mutual Information between the applied force and the cup kinematics and its sensitivity). Subjects (n = 8) oscillated the virtual cup between two targets via a robotic manipulandum, paced by a metronome at 1 Hz for 50 trials, each lasting 45 s. They were free to choose their movement amplitude and relative phase between the ball and cup. Experimental results showed that subjects increased their movement amplitudes, which rendered the interactions with the object more predictable and with lower sensitivity to the execution variables. These solutions were associated with higher average exerted force and lower object smoothness, contradicting common expectations from studies on discrete object manipulation and unrestrained movements. Instead, the findings showed that humans selected strategies with higher predictability of interaction dynamics. This finding expressed that humans seek movement strategies where force and kinematics synchronize to repeatable patterns that may require less sensorimotor information processing.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Chromatin Loops as Allosteric Modulators of Enhancer-Promoter Interactions
    [Oct 2014]

    by Boryana Doyle, Geoffrey Fudenberg, Maxim Imakaev, Leonid A. Mirny

    The classic model of eukaryotic gene expression requires direct spatial contact between a distal enhancer and a proximal promoter. Recent Chromosome Conformation Capture (3C) studies show that enhancers and promoters are embedded in a complex network of looping interactions. Here we use a polymer model of chromatin fiber to investigate whether, and to what extent, looping interactions between elements in the vicinity of an enhancer-promoter pair can influence their contact frequency. Our equilibrium polymer simulations show that a chromatin loop, formed by elements flanking either an enhancer or a promoter, suppresses enhancer-promoter interactions, working as an insulator. A loop formed by elements located in the region between an enhancer and a promoter, on the contrary, facilitates their interactions. We find that different mechanisms underlie insulation and facilitation; insulation occurs due to steric exclusion by the loop, and is a global effect, while facilitation occurs due to an effective shortening of the enhancer-promoter genomic distance, and is a local effect. Consistently, we find that these effects manifest quite differently for in silico 3C and microscopy. Our results show that looping interactions that do not directly involve an enhancer-promoter pair can nevertheless significantly modulate their interactions. This phenomenon is analogous to allosteric regulation in proteins, where a conformational change triggered by binding of a regulatory molecule to one site affects the state of another site.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Modeling Dynamics of Cell-to-Cell Variability in TRAIL-Induced Apoptosis Explains Fractional Killing and Predicts Reversible Resistance
    [Oct 2014]

    by François Bertaux, Szymon Stoma, Dirk Drasdo, Gregory Batt

    Isogenic cells sensing identical external signals can take markedly different decisions. Such decisions often correlate with pre-existing cell-to-cell differences in protein levels. When not neglected in signal transduction models, these differences are accounted for in a static manner, by assuming randomly distributed initial protein levels. However, this approach ignores the a priori non-trivial interplay between signal transduction and the source of this cell-to-cell variability: temporal fluctuations of protein levels in individual cells, driven by noisy synthesis and degradation. Thus, modeling protein fluctuations, rather than their consequences on the initial population heterogeneity, would set the quantitative analysis of signal transduction on firmer grounds. Adopting this dynamical view on cell-to-cell differences amounts to recast extrinsic variability into intrinsic noise. Here, we propose a generic approach to merge, in a systematic and principled manner, signal transduction models with stochastic protein turnover models. When applied to an established kinetic model of TRAIL-induced apoptosis, our approach markedly increased model prediction capabilities. One obtains a mechanistic explanation of yet-unexplained observations on fractional killing and non-trivial robust predictions of the temporal evolution of cell resistance to TRAIL in HeLa cells. Our results provide an alternative explanation to survival via induction of survival pathways since no TRAIL-induced regulations are needed and suggest that short-lived anti-apoptotic protein Mcl1 exhibit large and rare fluctuations. More generally, our results highlight the importance of accounting for stochastic protein turnover to quantitatively understand signal transduction over extended durations, and imply that fluctuations of short-lived proteins deserve particular attention.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Investigating the Structure and Dynamics of the PIK3CA Wild-Type and H1047R Oncogenic Mutant
    [Oct 2014]

    by Paraskevi Gkeka, Thomas Evangelidis, Maria Pavlaki, Vasiliki Lazani, Savvas Christoforidis, Bogos Agianian, Zoe Cournia

    The PIK3CA gene is one of the most frequently mutated oncogenes in human cancers. It encodes p110α, the catalytic subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase alpha (PI3Kα), which activates signaling cascades leading to cell proliferation, survival, and cell growth. The most frequent mutation in PIK3CA is H1047R, which results in enzymatic overactivation. Understanding how the H1047R mutation causes the enhanced activity of the protein in atomic detail is central to developing mutant-specific therapeutics for cancer. To this end, Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) experiments and Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations were carried out for both wild-type (WT) and H1047R mutant proteins. An expanded positive charge distribution on the membrane binding regions of the mutant with respect to the WT protein is observed through MD simulations, which justifies the increased ability of the mutated protein variant to bind to membranes rich in anionic lipids in our SPR experiments. Our results further support an auto-inhibitory role of the C-terminal tail in the WT protein, which is abolished in the mutant protein due to loss of crucial intermolecular interactions. Moreover, Functional Mode Analysis reveals that the H1047R mutation alters the twisting motion of the N-lobe of the kinase domain with respect to the C-lobe and shifts the position of the conserved P-loop residues in the vicinity of the active site. These findings demonstrate the dynamical and structural differences of the two proteins in atomic detail and propose a mechanism of overactivation for the mutant protein. The results may be further utilized for the design of mutant-specific PI3Kα inhibitors that exploit the altered mutant conformation.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • A Taxonomy of Bacterial Microcompartment Loci Constructed by a Novel Scoring Method
    [Oct 2014]

    by Seth D. Axen, Onur Erbilgin, Cheryl A. Kerfeld

    Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are proteinaceous organelles involved in both autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolism. All BMCs share homologous shell proteins but differ in their complement of enzymes; these are typically encoded adjacent to shell protein genes in genetic loci, or operons. To enable the identification and prediction of functional (sub)types of BMCs, we developed LoClass, an algorithm that finds putative BMC loci and inventories, weights, and compares their constituent pfam domains to construct a locus similarity network and predict locus (sub)types. In addition to using LoClass to analyze sequences in the Non-redundant Protein Database, we compared predicted BMC loci found in seven candidate bacterial phyla (six from single-cell genomic studies) to the LoClass taxonomy. Together, these analyses resulted in the identification of 23 different types of BMCs encoded in 30 distinct locus (sub)types found in 23 bacterial phyla. These include the two carboxysome types and a divergent set of metabolosomes, BMCs that share a common catalytic core and process distinct substrates via specific signature enzymes. Furthermore, many Candidate BMCs were found that lack one or more core metabolosome components, including one that is predicted to represent an entirely new paradigm for BMC-associated metabolism, joining the carboxysome and metabolosome. By placing these results in a phylogenetic context, we provide a framework for understanding the horizontal transfer of these loci, a starting point for studies aimed at understanding the evolution of BMCs. This comprehensive taxonomy of BMC loci, based on their constituent protein domains, foregrounds the functional diversity of BMCs and provides a reference for interpreting the role of BMC gene clusters encoded in isolate, single cell, and metagenomic data. Many loci encode ancillary functions such as transporters or genes for cofactor assembly; this expanded vocabulary of BMC-related functions should be useful for design of genetic modules for introducing BMCs in bioengineering applications.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Quantifying the Turnover of Transcriptional Subclasses of HIV-1-Infected Cells
    [Oct 2014]

    by Christian L. Althaus, Beda Joos, Alan S. Perelson, Huldrych F. Günthard

    HIV-1-infected cells in peripheral blood can be grouped into different transcriptional subclasses. Quantifying the turnover of these cellular subclasses can provide important insights into the viral life cycle and the generation and maintenance of latently infected cells. We used previously published data from five patients chronically infected with HIV-1 that initiated combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Patient-matched PCR for unspliced and multiply spliced viral RNAs combined with limiting dilution analysis provided measurements of transcriptional profiles at the single cell level. Furthermore, measurement of intracellular transcripts and extracellular virion-enclosed HIV-1 RNA allowed us to distinguish productive from non-productive cells. We developed a mathematical model describing the dynamics of plasma virus and the transcriptional subclasses of HIV-1-infected cells. Fitting the model to the data allowed us to better understand the phenotype of different transcriptional subclasses and their contribution to the overall turnover of HIV-1 before and during cART. The average number of virus-producing cells in peripheral blood is small during chronic infection. We find that a substantial fraction of cells can become defectively infected. Assuming that the infection is homogenous throughout the body, we estimate an average in vivo viral burst size on the order of 104 virions per cell. Our study provides novel quantitative insights into the turnover and development of different subclasses of HIV-1-infected cells, and indicates that cells containing solely unspliced viral RNA are a good marker for viral latency. The model illustrates how the pool of latently infected cells becomes rapidly established during the first months of acute infection and continues to increase slowly during the first years of chronic infection. Having a detailed understanding of this process will be useful for the evaluation of viral eradication strategies that aim to deplete the latent reservoir of HIV-1.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Predicting Chemical Environments of Bacteria from Receptor Signaling
    [Oct 2014]

    by Diana Clausznitzer, Gabriele Micali, Silke Neumann, Victor Sourjik, Robert G. Endres

    Sensory systems have evolved to respond to input stimuli of certain statistical properties, and to reliably transmit this information through biochemical pathways. Hence, for an experimentally well-characterized sensory system, one ought to be able to extract valuable information about the statistics of the stimuli. Based on dose-response curves from in vivo fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments of the bacterial chemotaxis sensory system, we predict the chemical gradients chemotactic Escherichia coli cells typically encounter in their natural environment. To predict average gradients cells experience, we revaluate the phenomenological Weber's law and its generalizations to the Weber-Fechner law and fold-change detection. To obtain full distributions of gradients we use information theory and simulations, considering limitations of information transmission from both cell-external and internal noise. We identify broad distributions of exponential gradients, which lead to log-normal stimuli and maximal drift velocity. Our results thus provide a first step towards deciphering the chemical nature of complex, experimentally inaccessible cellular microenvironments, such as the human intestine.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Lipid Clustering Correlates with Membrane Curvature as Revealed by Molecular Simulations of Complex Lipid Bilayers
    [Oct 2014]

    by Heidi Koldsø, David Shorthouse, Jean Hélie, Mark S. P. Sansom

    Cell membranes are complex multicomponent systems, which are highly heterogeneous in the lipid distribution and composition. To date, most molecular simulations have focussed on relatively simple lipid compositions, helping to inform our understanding of in vitro experimental studies. Here we describe on simulations of complex asymmetric plasma membrane model, which contains seven different lipids species including the glycolipid GM3 in the outer leaflet and the anionic lipid, phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphophate (PIP2), in the inner leaflet. Plasma membrane models consisting of 1500 lipids and resembling the in vivo composition were constructed and simulations were run for 5 µs. In these simulations the most striking feature was the formation of nano-clusters of GM3 within the outer leaflet. In simulations of protein interactions within a plasma membrane model, GM3, PIP2, and cholesterol all formed favorable interactions with the model α-helical protein. A larger scale simulation of a model plasma membrane containing 6000 lipid molecules revealed correlations between curvature of the bilayer surface and clustering of lipid molecules. In particular, the concave (when viewed from the extracellular side) regions of the bilayer surface were locally enriched in GM3. In summary, these simulations explore the nanoscale dynamics of model bilayers which mimic the in vivo lipid composition of mammalian plasma membranes, revealing emergent nanoscale membrane organization which may be coupled both to fluctuations in local membrane geometry and to interactions with proteins.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Glycolysis Is Governed by Growth Regime and Simple Enzyme Regulation in Adherent MDCK Cells
    [Oct 2014]

    by Markus Rehberg, Joachim B. Ritter, Udo Reichl

    Due to its vital importance in the supply of cellular pathways with energy and precursors, glycolysis has been studied for several decades regarding its capacity and regulation. For a systems-level understanding of the Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cell metabolism, we couple a segregated cell growth model published earlier with a structured model of glycolysis, which is based on relatively simple kinetics for enzymatic reactions of glycolysis, to explain the pathway dynamics under various cultivation conditions. The structured model takes into account in vitro enzyme activities, and links glycolysis with pentose phosphate pathway and glycogenesis. Using a single parameterization, metabolite pool dynamics during cell cultivation, glucose limitation and glucose pulse experiments can be consistently reproduced by considering the cultivation history of the cells. Growth phase-dependent glucose uptake together with cell-specific volume changes generate high intracellular metabolite pools and flux rates to satisfy the cellular demand during growth. Under glucose limitation, the coordinated control of glycolytic enzymes re-adjusts the glycolytic flux to prevent the depletion of glycolytic intermediates. Finally, the model's predictive power supports the design of more efficient bioprocesses.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Canonical Correlation Analysis for Gene-Based Pleiotropy Discovery
    [Oct 2014]

    by Jose A. Seoane, Colin Campbell, Ian N. M. Day, Juan P. Casas, Tom R. Gaunt

    Genome-wide association studies have identified a wealth of genetic variants involved in complex traits and multifactorial diseases. There is now considerable interest in testing variants for association with multiple phenotypes (pleiotropy) and for testing multiple variants for association with a single phenotype (gene-based association tests). Such approaches can increase statistical power by combining evidence for association over multiple phenotypes or genetic variants respectively. Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA) measures the correlation between two sets of multidimensional variables, and thus offers the potential to combine these two approaches. To apply CCA, we must restrict the number of attributes relative to the number of samples. Hence we consider modules of genetic variation that can comprise a gene, a pathway or another biologically relevant grouping, and/or a set of phenotypes. In order to do this, we use an attribute selection strategy based on a binary genetic algorithm. Applied to a UK-based prospective cohort study of 4286 women (the British Women's Heart and Health Study), we find improved statistical power in the detection of previously reported genetic associations, and identify a number of novel pleiotropic associations between genetic variants and phenotypes. New discoveries include gene-based association of NSF with triglyceride levels and several genes (ACSM3, ERI2, IL18RAP, IL23RAP and NRG1) with left ventricular hypertrophy phenotypes. In multiple-phenotype analyses we find association of NRG1 with left ventricular hypertrophy phenotypes, fibrinogen and urea and pleiotropic relationships of F7 and F10 with Factor VII, Factor IX and cholesterol levels.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Likelihood-Based Gene Annotations for Gap Filling and Quality Assessment in Genome-Scale Metabolic Models
    [Oct 2014]

    by Matthew N. Benedict, Michael B. Mundy, Christopher S. Henry, Nicholas Chia, Nathan D. Price

    Genome-scale metabolic models provide a powerful means to harness information from genomes to deepen biological insights. With exponentially increasing sequencing capacity, there is an enormous need for automated reconstruction techniques that can provide more accurate models in a short time frame. Current methods for automated metabolic network reconstruction rely on gene and reaction annotations to build draft metabolic networks and algorithms to fill gaps in these networks. However, automated reconstruction is hampered by database inconsistencies, incorrect annotations, and gap filling largely without considering genomic information. Here we develop an approach for applying genomic information to predict alternative functions for genes and estimate their likelihoods from sequence homology. We show that computed likelihood values were significantly higher for annotations found in manually curated metabolic networks than those that were not. We then apply these alternative functional predictions to estimate reaction likelihoods, which are used in a new gap filling approach called likelihood-based gap filling to predict more genomically consistent solutions. To validate the likelihood-based gap filling approach, we applied it to models where essential pathways were removed, finding that likelihood-based gap filling identified more biologically relevant solutions than parsimony-based gap filling approaches. We also demonstrate that models gap filled using likelihood-based gap filling provide greater coverage and genomic consistency with metabolic gene functions compared to parsimony-based approaches. Interestingly, despite these findings, we found that likelihoods did not significantly affect consistency of gap filled models with Biolog and knockout lethality data. This indicates that the phenotype data alone cannot necessarily be used to discriminate between alternative solutions for gap filling and therefore, that the use of other information is necessary to obtain a more accurate network. All described workflows are implemented as part of the DOE Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase) and are publicly available via API or command-line web interface.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness
    [Oct 2014]

    by Srivas Chennu, Paola Finoia, Evelyn Kamau, Judith Allanson, Guy B. Williams, Martin M. Monti, Valdas Noreika, Aurina Arnatkeviciute, Andrés Canales-Johnson, Francisco Olivares, Daniela Cabezas-Soto, David K. Menon, John D. Pickard, Adrian M. Owen, Tristan A. Bekinschtein

    Theoretical advances in the science of consciousness have proposed that it is concomitant with balanced cortical integration and differentiation, enabled by efficient networks of information transfer across multiple scales. Here, we apply graph theory to compare key signatures of such networks in high-density electroencephalographic data from 32 patients with chronic disorders of consciousness, against normative data from healthy controls. Based on connectivity within canonical frequency bands, we found that patient networks had reduced local and global efficiency, and fewer hubs in the alpha band. We devised a novel topographical metric, termed modular span, which showed that the alpha network modules in patients were also spatially circumscribed, lacking the structured long-distance interactions commonly observed in the healthy controls. Importantly however, these differences between graph-theoretic metrics were partially reversed in delta and theta band networks, which were also significantly more similar to each other in patients than controls. Going further, we found that metrics of alpha network efficiency also correlated with the degree of behavioural awareness. Intriguingly, some patients in behaviourally unresponsive vegetative states who demonstrated evidence of covert awareness with functional neuroimaging stood out from this trend: they had alpha networks that were remarkably well preserved and similar to those observed in the controls. Taken together, our findings inform current understanding of disorders of consciousness by highlighting the distinctive brain networks that characterise them. In the significant minority of vegetative patients who follow commands in neuroimaging tests, they point to putative network mechanisms that could support cognitive function and consciousness despite profound behavioural impairment.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Linking Myometrial Physiology to Intrauterine Pressure; How Tissue-Level Contractions Create Uterine Contractions of Labor
    [Oct 2014]

    by Roger C. Young, Peter Barendse

    The mechanisms used to coordinate uterine contractions are not known. We develop a new model based on the proposal that there is a maximum distance to which action potentials can propagate in the uterine wall. This establishes “regions”, where one action potential burst can rapidly recruit all the tissue. Regions are recruited into an organ-level contraction via a stretch-initiated contraction mechanism (myometrial myogenic response). Each uterine contraction begins with a regional contraction, which slightly increases intrauterine pressure. Higher pressure raises tension throughout the uterine wall, which initiates contractions of more regions and further increases pressure. The positive feedback synchronizes regional contractions into an organ-level contraction. Cellular automaton (CA) simulations are performed with Mathematica. Each “cell” is a region that is assigned an action potential threshold. An anatomy sensitivity factor converts intrauterine pressure to regional tension through the Law of Laplace. A regional contraction occurs when regional tension exceeds regional threshold. Other input variables are: starting and minimum pressure, burst and refractory period durations, enhanced contractile activity during an electrical burst, and reduced activity during the refractory period. Complex patterns of pressure development are seen that mimic the contraction patterns observed in laboring women. Emergent behavior is observed, including global synchronization, multiple pace making regions, and system memory of prior conditions. The complex effects of nifedipine and oxytocin exposure are simulated. The force produced can vary as a nonlinear function of the number of regions. The simulation directly links tissue-level physiology to human labor. The concept of a uterine pacemaker is re-evaluated because pace making activity may occur well before expression of a contraction. We propose a new classification system for biological CAs that parallels the 4-class system of Wolfram. However, instead of classifying the rules, biological CAs should classify the set of input values for the rules that describe the relevant biology.
    Categories: Journal Articles