A minimal, compartmental model for a dendritic origin of bistability of motoneuron firing patterns

Victoria Booth, John Rinzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Various nonlinear regenerative responses, including plateau potentials and bistable repetitive firing modes, have been observed in motoneurons under certain conditions. Our simulation results support the hypothesis that these responses are due to plateau-generating currents in the dendrites, consistent with a major role for a noninactivating calcium L-type current as suggested by experiments. Bistability as observed in the soma of low- and higher-frequency spiking or, under TTX, of near resting and depolarized plateau potentials, occurs because the dendrites can be in a near resting or depolarized stable steady state. We formulate and study a two-compartment minimal model of a motoneuron that segregates currents for fast spiking into a soma-like compartment and currents responsible for plateau potentials into a dendrite-like compartment. Current flows between compartments through a coupling conductance, mimicking electrotonic spread. We use bifurcation techniques to illuminate how the coupling strength affects somatic behavior. We look closely at the case of weak coupling strength to gain insight into the development of bistable patterns. Robust somatic bistability depends on the electrical separation since it occurs only for weak to moderate coupling conductance. We also illustrate that hysteresis of the two spiking states is a natural consequence of the plateau behavior in the dendrite compartment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-312
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995


  • bistability
  • compartmental modeling
  • dendrites
  • motoneurons
  • plateau potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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