The Energy Homeostasis Principle: Neuronal Energy Regulation Drives Local Network Dynamics Generating Behavior


A major goal of neuroscience is understanding how neurons arrange themselves into neural networks that result in behavior. Most theoretical and experimental efforts have focused on a top-down approach which seeks to identify neuronal correlates of behaviors. This has been accomplished by effectively mapping specific behaviors to distinct neural patterns, or by creating computational models that produce a desired behavioral outcome. Nonetheless, these approaches have only implicitly considered the fact that neural tissue, like any other physical system, is subjected to several restrictions and boundaries of operations. Here, we proposed a new, bottom-up conceptual paradigm: The Energy Homeostasis Principle, where the balance between energy income, expenditure, and availability are the key parameters in determining the dynamics of neuronal phenomena found from molecular to behavioral levels. Neurons display high energy consumption relative to other cells, with metabolic consumption of the brain representing 20% of the whole-body oxygen uptake, contrasting with this organ representing only 2% of the body weight. Also, neurons have specialized surrounding tissue providing the necessary energy which, in the case of the brain, is provided by astrocytes. Moreover, and unlike other cell types with high energy demands such as muscle cells, neurons have strict aerobic metabolism. These facts indicate that neurons are highly sensitive to energy limitations, with Gibbs free energy dictating the direction of all cellular metabolic processes. From this activity, the largest energy, by far, is expended by action potentials and post-synaptic potentials; therefore, plasticity can be reinterpreted in terms of their energy context. Consequently, neurons, through their synapses, impose energy demands over post-synaptic neurons in a close loop-manner, modulating the dynamics of local circuits. Subsequently, the energy dynamics end up impacting the homeostatic mechanisms of neuronal networks. Furthermore, local energy management also emerges as a neural population property, where most of the energy expenses are triggered by sensory or other modulatory inputs. Local energy management in neurons may be sufficient to explain the emergence of behavior, enabling the assessment of which properties arise in neural circuits and how. Essentially, the proposal of the Energy Homeostasis Principle is also readily testable for simple neuronal networks.

Rodrigo C. Vergara, Sebastián Jaramillo-Riveri, Alejandro Luarte, Cristóbal Moënne-Loccoz, Rómulo Fuentes, Andrés Couve And Pedro E. Maldonado

Frontiers In Computational Neuroscience

septiembre 23, 2019

DOI: 10.3389/fncom.2019.00049

Investigador BNI: Rómulo Fuentes , Pedro Maldonado