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PLoS Comput Biol. 2008 Jan;4(1):e11. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0040011. Epub 2007 Dec 13.

Neuronal firing sensitivity to morphologic and active membrane parameters.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Biomathematics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States of America. christina.weaver@mssm.edu

Abstract

Both the excitability of a neuron's membrane, driven by active ion channels, and dendritic morphology contribute to neuronal firing dynamics, but the relative importance and interactions between these features remain poorly understood. Recent modeling studies have shown that different combinations of active conductances can evoke similar firing patterns, but have neglected how morphology might contribute to homeostasis. Parameterizing the morphology of a cylindrical dendrite, we introduce a novel application of mathematical sensitivity analysis that quantifies how dendritic length, diameter, and surface area influence neuronal firing, and compares these effects directly against those of active parameters. The method was applied to a model of neurons from goldfish Area II. These neurons exhibit, and likely contribute to, persistent activity in eye velocity storage, a simple model of working memory. We introduce sensitivity landscapes, defined by local sensitivity analyses of firing rate and gain to each parameter, performed globally across the parameter space. Principal directions over which sensitivity to all parameters varied most revealed intrinsic currents that most controlled model output. We found domains where different groups of parameters had the highest sensitivities, suggesting that interactions within each group shaped firing behaviors within each specific domain. Application of our method, and its characterization of which models were sensitive to general morphologic features, will lead to advances in understanding how realistic morphology participates in functional homeostasis. Significantly, we can predict which active conductances, and how many of them, will compensate for a given age- or development-related structural change, or will offset a morphologic perturbation resulting from trauma or neurodegenerative disorder, to restore normal function. Our method can be adapted to analyze any computational model. Thus, sensitivity landscapes, and the quantitative predictions they provide, can give new insight into mechanisms of homeostasis in any biological system.

PMID:
18208320
PMCID:
PMC2211531
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pcbi.0040011
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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