Spatial heterogeneity enhances and modulates excitability in a mathematical model of the myometrium

Rachel E. Sheldon, Marc Baghdadi, Conor McCloskey, Andrew M. Blanks, Anatoly Shmygol, Hugo A. Van Den Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The muscular layer of the uterus (myometrium) undergoes profound changes in global excitability prior to parturition. Here, a mathematical model of the myocyte network is developed to investigate the hypothesis that spatial heterogeneity is essential to the transition from local to global excitation which the myometrium undergoes just prior to birth. Each myometrial smooth muscle cell is represented by an element with FitzHugh-Nagumo dynamics. The cells are coupled through resistors that represent gap junctions. Spatial heterogeneity is introduced by means of stochastic variation in coupling strengths, with parameters derived from physiological data. Numerical simulations indicate that even modest increases in the heterogeneity of the system can amplify the ability of locally applied stimuli to elicit global excitation. Moreover, in networks driven by a pacemaker cell, global oscillations of excitation are impeded in fully connected and strongly coupled networks. The ability of a locally stimulated cell or pacemaker cell to excite the network is shown to be strongly dependent on the local spatial correlation structure of the couplings. In summary, spatial heterogeneity is a key factor in enhancing and modulating global excitability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0458
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number86
Publication statusPublished - Sept 6 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Fitzhugh-nagumo
  • Gap junction
  • Modelling
  • Myometrium
  • Parturition
  • Uterus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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