We developed an analog very large-scale integrated system of two mutually inhibitory silicon neurons that display several different stable oscillations. For example, oscillations can be synchronous with weak inhibitory coupling and alternating with relatively strong inhibitory coupling. All oscillations observed experimentally were predicted by bifurcation analysis of a corresponding mathematical model. The synchronous oscillations do not require special synaptic properties and are apparently robust enough to survive the variability and constraints inherent in this physical system.
In biological experiments with oscillatory neuronal networks, blockade of inhibitory synaptic coupling can sometimes lead to synchronous oscillations. An example of this phenomenon is the transition from alternating to synchronous bursting in the swimming central pattern generator of lamprey when synaptic inhibition is blocked by strychnine. Our results suggest a simple explanation for the observed oscillatory transitions in the lamprey central pattern generator network: that inhibitory connectivity alone is sufficient to produce the observed transition.