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The dynamics of individual neurons are crucial for producing functional activity in neuronal networks. An open question is how temporal characteristics can be controlled in bursting activity and in transient neuronal responses to synaptic input. Bifurcation theory provides a framework to discover generic mechanisms addressing this question. We present a family of mechanisms organized around a global codimension-2 bifurcation. The cornerstone bifurcation is located at the intersection of the border between bursting and spiking and the border between bursting and silence. These borders correspond to the blue sky catastrophe bifurcation and the saddle-node bifurcation on an invariant circle (SNIC) curves, respectively. The cornerstone bifurcation satisfies the conditions for both the blue sky catastrophe and SNIC. The burst duration and interburst interval increase as the inverse of the square root of the difference between the corresponding bifurcation parameter and its bifurcation value. For a given set of burst duration and interburst interval, one can find the parameter values supporting these temporal characteristics. The cornerstone bifurcation also determines the responses of silent and spiking neurons. In a silent neuron with parameters close to the SNIC, a pulse of current triggers a single burst. In a spiking neuron with parameters close to the blue sky catastrophe, a pulse of current temporarily silences the neuron. These responses are stereotypical: the durations of the transient intervals–the duration of the burst and the duration of latency to spiking–are governed by the inverse-square-root laws. The mechanisms described here could be used to coordinate neuromuscular control in central pattern generators. As proof of principle, we construct small networks that control metachronal-wave motor pattern exhibited in locomotion. This pattern is determined by the phase relations of bursting neurons in a simple central pattern generator modeled by a chain of oscillators.


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Barnett WH, Cymbalyuk GS (2014) A Codimension-2 Bifurcation Controlling Endogenous Bursting Activity and Pulse-Triggered Responses of a Neuron Model. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85451. doi:

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.