Exploring how extracellular electric field modulates neuron activity through dynamical analysis of a two-compartment neuron model

Guo Sheng Yi, Jiang Wang, Xi Le Wei, Kai Ming Tsang, Wai Lok Chan, Bin Deng, Chun Xiao Han

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


To investigate how extracellular electric field modulates neuron activity, a reduced two-compartment neuron model in the presence of electric field is introduced in this study. Depending on neuronal geometric and internal coupling parameters, the behaviors of the model have been studied extensively. The neuron model can exist in quiescent state or repetitive spiking state in response to electric field stimulus. Negative electric field mainly acts as inhibitory stimulus to the neuron, positive weak electric field could modulate spiking frequency and spike timing when the neuron is already active, and positive electric fields with sufficient intensity could directly trigger neuronal spiking in the absence of other stimulations. By bifurcation analysis, it is observed that there is saddle-node on invariant circle bifurcation, supercritical Hopf bifurcation and subcritical Hopf bifurcation appearing in the obtained two parameter bifurcation diagrams. The bifurcation structures and electric field thresholds for triggering neuron firing are determined by neuronal geometric and coupling parameters. The model predicts that the neurons with a nonsymmetric morphology between soma and dendrite, are more sensitive to electric field stimulus than those with the spherical structure. These findings suggest that neuronal geometric features play a crucial role in electric field effects on the polarization of neuronal compartments. Moreover, by determining the electric field threshold of our biophysical model, we could accurately distinguish between suprathreshold and subthreshold electric fields. Our study highlights the effects of extracellular electric field on neuronal activity from the biophysical modeling point of view. These insights into the dynamical mechanism of electric field may contribute to the investigation and development of electromagnetic therapies, and the model in our study could be further extended to a neuronal network in which the effects of electric fields on network activity may be investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-399
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Bifurcation
  • Extracellular electric fields
  • Spiking behaviors
  • Two-compartment neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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