Competition in the Development of Nerve Connections:
A Review of Models
Network: Computation in Neural Systems (2001) 12: R1-R47
by Arjen van Ooyen
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The establishment and refinement of neural circuits involve both the
formation of new connections and the elimination of already existing
connections. Elimination of connections occurs, for example, in the
development of mononeural innervation of muscle fibres and in the
formation of ocular dominance columns in the visual cortex.
The process that leads to the elimination of connections is often
referred to as axonal or synaptic competition.
Although the notion of competition is commonly used, the process
is not well understood -- with respect to, for example, the type of
competition, what axons and synapses are competing for, and the
role of electrical activity.
This article reviews the types of competition that have been
distinguished and the models of competition that have been proposed.
Models of both the neuromuscular system and the visual system
are described. For each of these models, the assumptions on which
it is based, its mathematical structure, and the extent to which
it is supported by the experimental data are evaluated.
Special attention is given to the different modelling approaches
and the role of electrical activity in competition.
Arjen van Ooyen, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research,
Meibergdreef 33, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
email: A.van.Ooyen at nih.knaw.nl
phone: +31.20.5665483 fax: +31.20.6961006