Switches in brain states, synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation are fundamental processes in our brain that take place concomitantly across several spatial and timescales. All these processes target neuron intrinsic properties and connectivity to achieve specific physiological goals, raising the question of how they can operate without interfering with each other. Here, we highlight the central importance of a timescale separation in the activation of sodium and T-type calcium channels to sustain robust switches in brain states in thalamic neurons that are compatible with synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation. We quantify the role of this timescale separation by comparing the robustness of rhythms of six published conductance-based models at the cellular, circuit and network levels. We show that robust rhythm generation requires a T-type calcium channel activation whose kinetics are situated between sodium channel activation and T-type calcium channel inactivation in all models despite their quantitative differences.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience