We have studied periodic as well as aperiodic behavior in the self-sustained oscillations exhibited by the Hodgkin-Huxley type model of Chay, T. R., and J. Keizer (Biophys. J., 1983, 42:181–190) for the pancreatic beta-cell. Numerical solutions reveal a variety of patterns as the glucose-dependent parameter kCa is varied. These include regimes of periodic beating (continuous spiking) and bursting modes and, in the transition between these modes, aperiodic responses. Such aperiodic behavior for a nonrandom system has been called deterministic chaos and is characterized by distinguishing features found in previous studies of chaos in nonbiophysical systems and here identified for an (endogenously active) excitable membrane model. To parallel the successful analysis of chaos in other physical/chemical contexts we introduce a simplified, but quantitative, one-variable, discrete-time representation of the dynamics. It describes the evolution of intracellular calcium (which activates a potassium conductance) from one spike upstroke to the next and exhibits the various modes of behavior.
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