Multiple Spike Time Patterns Occur at Bifurcation Points of Membrane Potential Dynamics

J. Vincent Toups, Jean Marc Fellous, Peter J. Thomas, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Paul H. Tiesinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The response of a neuron to repeated somatic fluctuating current injections in vitro can elicit a reliable and precisely timed sequence of action potentials. The set of responses obtained across trials can also be interpreted as the response of an ensemble of similar neurons receiving the same input, with the precise spike times representing synchronous volleys that would be effective in driving postsynaptic neurons. To study the reproducibility of the output spike times for different conditions that might occur in vivo, we somatically injected aperiodic current waveforms into cortical neurons in vitro and systematically varied the amplitude and DC offset of the fluctuations. As the amplitude of the fluctuations was increased, reliability increased and the spike times remained stable over a wide range of values. However, at specific values called bifurcation points, large shifts in the spike times were obtained in response to small changes in the stimulus, resulting in multiple spike patterns that were revealed using an unsupervised classification method. Increasing the DC offset, which mimicked an overall increase in network background activity, also revealed bifurcation points and increased the reliability. Furthermore, the spike times shifted earlier with increasing offset. Although the reliability was reduced at bifurcation points, a theoretical analysis showed that the information about the stimulus time course was increased because each of the spike time patterns contained different information about the input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002615
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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