Channel-noise-induced stochastic facilitation in an auditory brainstem neuron model

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2013 Nov;88(5):052722. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.88.052722. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Neuronal membrane potentials fluctuate stochastically due to conductance changes caused by random transitions between the open and closed states of ion channels. Although it has previously been shown that channel noise can nontrivially affect neuronal dynamics, it is unknown whether ion-channel noise is strong enough to act as a noise source for hypothesized noise-enhanced information processing in real neuronal systems, i.e., "stochastic facilitation". Here we demonstrate that biophysical models of channel noise can give rise to two kinds of recently discovered stochastic facilitation effects in a Hodgkin-Huxley-like model of auditory brainstem neurons. The first, known as slope-based stochastic resonance (SBSR), enables phasic neurons to emit action potentials that can encode the slope of inputs that vary slowly relative to key time constants in the model. The second, known as inverse stochastic resonance (ISR), occurs in tonically firing neurons when small levels of noise inhibit tonic firing and replace it with burstlike dynamics. Consistent with previous work, we conclude that channel noise can provide significant variability in firing dynamics, even for large numbers of channels. Moreover, our results show that possible associated computational benefits may occur due to channel noise in neurons of the auditory brainstem. This holds whether the firing dynamics in the model are phasic (SBSR can occur due to channel noise) or tonic (ISR can occur due to channel noise).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology*
  • Brain Stem / cytology*
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Time Factors


  • Ion Channels