Contribution of intrinsic motoneuron properties to discharge hysteresis and its estimation based on paired motor unit recordings: a simulation study

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jul;114(1):184-98. doi: 10.1152/jn.00019.2015. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


Motoneuron activity is strongly influenced by the activation of persistent inward currents (PICs) mediated by voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels. However, the amount of PIC contribution to the activation of human motoneurons can only be estimated indirectly. Simultaneous recordings of pairs of motor units have been used to provide an estimate of the PIC contribution by using the firing rate of the lower threshold unit to provide an estimate of the common synaptic drive to both units, and the difference in firing rate (ΔF) of this lower threshold unit at recruitment and de-recruitment of the higher threshold unit to estimate the PIC contribution to activation of the higher threshold unit. It has recently been suggested that a number of factors other than PIC can contribute to ΔF values, including mechanisms underlying spike frequency adaptation and spike threshold accommodation. In the present study, we used a set of compartmental models representing a sample of 20 motoneurons with a range of thresholds to investigate how several different intrinsic motoneuron properties can potentially contribute to variations in ΔF values. We drove the models with linearly increasing and decreasing noisy conductance commands of different rate of rise and duration and determined the influence of different intrinsic mechanisms on discharge hysteresis (the difference in excitatory drive at recruitment and de-recruitment) and ΔF. Our results indicate that, although other factors can contribute, variations in discharge hysteresis and ΔF values primarily reflect the contribution of dendritic PICs to motoneuron activation.

Keywords: discharge hysteresis; motor unit; persistent inward current.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*


  • CACNA1D protein, human
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type