Poisson Process Stimulation of an Excitable Membrane Cable Model

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The convergence of multiple inputs within a single-neuronal substrate is a common design feature of both peripheral and central nervous systems. Typically, the result of such convergence impinges upon an intracellularly contiguous axon, where it is encoded into a train of action potentials. The simplest representation of the result of convergence of multiple inputs is a Poisson process; a general representation of axonal excitability is the Hodgkin-Huxley/cable theory formalism. The present work addressed multiple input convergence upon an axon by applying Poisson process stimulation to the Hodgkin-Huxley axonal cable. The results showed that both absolute and relative refractory periods yielded in the axonal output a random but non-Poisson process. While smaller amplitude stimuli elicited a type of short-interval conditioning, larger amplitude stimuli elicited impulse trains approaching Poisson criteria except for the effects of refractoriness. These results were obtained for stimulus trains consisting of pulses of constant amplitude and constant or variable durations. By contrast, with or without stimulus pulse shape variability, the post-impulse conditional probability for impulse initiation in the steady-state was a Poisson-like process. For stimulus variability consisting of randomly smaller amplitudes or randomly longer durations, mean impulse frequency was attenuated or potentiated, respectively. Limitations and implications of these computations are discussed.


Copyright © 1986 The Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.