Computational models for calcium-mediated astrocyte functions

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    The computational neuroscience field has heavily concentrated on the modeling of neuronal functions, largely ignoring other brain cells, including one type of glial cell, the astrocytes. Despite the short history of modeling astrocytic functions, we were delighted about the hundreds of models developed so far to study the role of astrocytes, most often in calcium dynamics, synchronization, information transfer, and plasticity in vitro, but also in vascular events, hyperexcitability, and homeostasis. Our goal here is to present the state-of-the-art in computational modeling of astrocytes in order to facilitate better understanding of the functions and dynamics of astrocytes in the brain. Due to the large number of models, we concentrated on a hundred models that include biophysical descriptions for calcium signaling and dynamics in astrocytes. We categorized the models into four groups: single astrocyte models, astrocyte network models, neuron-astrocyte synapse models, and neuron-astrocyte network models to ease their use in future modeling projects. We characterized the models based on which earlier models were used for building the models and which type of biological entities were described in the astrocyte models. Features of the models were compared and contrasted so that similarities and differences were more readily apparent. We discovered that most of the models were basically generated from a small set of previously published models with small variations. However, neither citations to all the previous models with similar core structure nor explanations of what was built on top of the previous models were provided, which made it possible, in some cases, to have the same models published several times without an explicit intention to make new predictions about the roles of astrocytes in brain functions. Furthermore, only a few of the models are available online which makes it difficult to reproduce the simulation results and further develop the models. Thus, we would like to emphasize that only via reproducible research are we able to build better computational models for astrocytes, which truly advance science. Our study is the first to characterize in detail the biophysical and biochemical mechanisms that have been modeled for astrocytes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number14
    JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    Publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

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