Parameter sensitivity analysis in electrophysiological models using multivariable regression

Biophys J. 2009 Feb 18;96(4):1264-74. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2008.10.056.


Computational models of electrical activity and calcium signaling in cardiac myocytes are important tools for understanding physiology. The sensitivity of these models to changes in parameters is often not well-understood, however, because parameter evaluation can be a time-consuming, tedious process. I demonstrate here what I believe is a novel method for rapidly determining how changes in parameters affect outputs. In three models of the ventricular action potential, parameters were randomized, repeated simulations were run, important outputs were calculated, and multivariable regression was performed on the collected results. Random parameters included both maximal rates of ion transport and gating variable characteristics. The procedure generated simplified, empirical models that predicted outputs resulting from new sets of input parameters. The linear regression models were quite accurate, despite nonlinearities in the mechanistic models. Moreover, the regression coefficients, which represent parameter sensitivities, were robust, even when parameters were varied over a wide range. Most importantly, a side-by-side comparison of two similar models identified fundamental differences in model behavior, and revealed model predictions that were both consistent with, and inconsistent with, experimental data. This new method therefore shows promise as a tool for the characterization and assessment of computational models. The general strategy may also suggest methods for integrating traditional quantitative models with large-scale data sets obtained using high-throughput technologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Ion Transport / physiology
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology*