Temperature elevations can induce switches to homoclinic action potentials that alter neural encoding and synchronization

Janina Hesse, Jan-Hendrik Schleimer, Nikolaus Maier, Dietmar Schmitz, Susanne Schreiber

Almost seventy years after the discovery of the mechanisms of action potential generation, some aspects of their computational consequences are still not fully understood. Based on mathematical modeling, we here explore a type of action potential dynamics – arising from a saddle-node homoclinic orbit bifurcation – that so far has received little attention. We show that this type of dynamics is to be expected by specific changes in common physiological parameters, like an elevation of temperature. Moreover, we demonstrate that it favours synchronization patterns in networks – a feature that becomes particularly prominent when system parameters change such that homoclinic spiking is induced. Supported by in-vitro hallmarks for homoclinic spikes in the rodent brain, we hypothesize that the prevalence of homoclinic spikes in the brain may be underestimated and provide a missing link between the impact of biophysical parameters on abrupt transitions between asynchronous and synchronous states of electrical activity in the brain.

Nat Commun. 13(1):3934 (2022)

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