Spike patterning in oxytocin neurons: Capturing physiological behaviour with Hodgkin-Huxley and integrate-and-fire models

Trystan Leng, Gareth Leng, Duncan J MacGregor

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Integrate-and-fire (IF) models can provide close matches to the discharge activity of neurons, but do they oversimplify the biophysical properties of the neurons? A single compartment Hodgkin-Huxley (HH) model of the oxytocin neuron has previously been developed, incorporating biophysical measurements of channel properties obtained in vitro. A simpler modified integrate-and-fire model has also been developed, which can match well the characteristic spike patterning of oxytocin neurons as observed in vivo. Here, we extended the HH model to incorporate synaptic input, to enable us to compare spike activity in the model with experimental data obtained in vivo. We refined the HH model parameters to closely match the data, and then matched the same experimental data with a modified IF model, using an evolutionary algorithm to optimise parameter matching. Finally we compared the properties of the modified HH model with those of the IF model to seek an explanation for differences between spike patterning in vitro and in vivo. We show that, with slight modifications, the original HH model, like the IF model, is able to closely match both the interspike interval (ISI) distributions of oxytocin neurons and the observed variability of spike firing rates in vivo and in vitro. This close match of both models to data depends on the presence of a slow activity-dependent hyperpolarisation (AHP); this is represented in both models and the parameters used in the HH model representation match well with optimal parameters of the IF model found by an evolutionary algorithm. The ability of both models to fit data closely also depends on a shorter hyperpolarising after potential (HAP); this is explicitly represented in the IF model, but in the HH model, it emerges from a combination of several components. The critical elements of this combination are identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0180368
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017


  • Journal Article


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