Simulation of action potential propagation in complex terminal arborizations

Biophys J. 1990 Dec;58(6):1389-99. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(90)82485-1.


Action potential propagation in complex terminal arborizations was simulated using SPICE, a general purpose circuit simulation program. The Hodgkin-Huxley equations were used to simulate excitable membrane compartments. Conduction failure was common at branch points and regularly spaced boutons en passant. More complex arborizations had proportionally more inactive synapses than less complex arborizations. At lower temperature the safety factor for impulse propagation increased, reducing the number of silent synapses in a particular arborization. Small structural differences as well as minute changes in the discharge frequency of the action potential resulted in very different activation patterns of the arborization and terminal boutons. The results suggest that the structural diversity of terminal arborizations allows a wide range of presynaptic information processing. The results from this simulation study are discussed in the context of experimental results on the modulation of synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*