Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Gennady Cymbalyuk- Chair

Second Advisor

Andrey Shilnikov

Third Advisor

Donald Edwards

Fourth Advisor

Vadym Apalkov

Fifth Advisor

Mukesh Dhamala


Multistability is a fundamental attribute of the dynamics of neuronal systems under normal and pathological conditions. The mechanism of bistability of bursting and silence is not well understood and to our knowledge has not been experimentally recorded in single neurons. We considered four models. Two of them described the dynamics of a leech heart interneuron: the canonical model and a low-dimensional model. The other two models described mammalian pacemakers from the respiratory center.

We investigated the low-dimensional model and identified six different types of multistability of dynamical regimes. We described six generic mechanisms underlying the co-existence of oscillatory and silent regimes. The mechanisms are based either on a saddle equilibrium or a saddle periodic orbit. The stable manifold of the saddle equilibrium or the saddle orbit sets the threshold between the regimes. In the two models of the leech interneuron the range of the controlling parameters supporting the co-existence of bursting and silence is limited by the Andronov-Hopf and homoclinic bifurcations (Malashchenko, Master Thesis 2007). The bistability was found in a narrow range of the leak currents' parameters. Here, we introduced a propensity index to bistability as the width of the range on a bifurcation diagram; we investigated how the propensity index was affected by modifications of the ionic currents, and found that conductances of only two currents substantially affected the index. The increase of the conductance of the hyperpolarization-activated current, Ih, and the reduction of the fast Ca2+ current, ICaF, notably increased the propensity index. These findings define modulatory conditions under which we suggest the bistability of bursting and silence could be experimentally revealed in leech heart interneurons. We hypothesize that this mechanism could be commonly found in a large variety of neuronal models. We applied our techniques to models of vertebrate neurons controlling respiratory rhythm, which represent two types of inspiratory pacemakers of the Pre-Bӧtzinger Complex. We showed that both types of neurons could exhibit bistability of bursting and silence in accordance with the mechanism which we described.