Individual neurons display characteristic firing patterns determined by the number and kind of ion channels in their membranes. We describe experimental and computational studies that suggest that neurons use activity sensors to regulate the number and kind of ion channels and receptors in their membrane to maintain a stable pattern of activity and to compensate for ongoing processes of degradation, synthesis and insertion of ion channels and receptors. We show that similar neuronal and network outputs can be produced by a number of different combinations of ion channels and synapse strengths. This suggests that individual neurons of the same class may each have found an acceptable solution to a genetically determined pattern of activity, and that networks of neurons in different animals may produce similar output patterns by somewhat variable underlying mechanisms.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.