A biophysical model examining the role of low-voltage-activated potassium currents in shaping the responses of vestibular ganglion neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Aug 1;116(2):503-21. doi: 10.1152/jn.00107.2016. Epub 2016 Apr 27.


The vestibular nerve is characterized by two broad groups of neurons that differ in the timing of their interspike intervals; some fire at highly regular intervals, whereas others fire at highly irregular intervals. Heterogeneity in ion channel properties has been proposed as shaping these firing patterns (Highstein SM, Politoff AL. Brain Res 150: 182-187, 1978; Smith CE, Goldberg JM. Biol Cybern 54: 41-51, 1986). Kalluri et al. (J Neurophysiol 104: 2034-2051, 2010) proposed that regularity is controlled by the density of low-voltage-activated potassium currents (IKL). To examine the impact of IKL on spike timing regularity, we implemented a single-compartment model with three conductances known to be present in the vestibular ganglion: transient sodium (gNa), low-voltage-activated potassium (gKL), and high-voltage-activated potassium (gKH). Consistent with in vitro observations, removing gKL depolarized resting potential, increased input resistance and membrane time constant, and converted current step-evoked firing patterns from transient (1 spike at current onset) to sustained (many spikes). Modeled neurons were driven with a time-varying synaptic conductance that captured the random arrival times and amplitudes of glutamate-driven synaptic events. In the presence of gKL, spiking occurred only in response to large events with fast onsets. Models without gKL exhibited greater integration by responding to the superposition of rapidly arriving events. Three synaptic conductance were modeled, each with different kinetics to represent a variety of different synaptic processes. In response to all three types of synaptic conductance, models containing gKL produced spike trains with irregular interspike intervals. Only models lacking gKL when driven by rapidly arriving small excitatory postsynaptic currents were capable of generating regular spiking.

Keywords: low-voltage-activated potassium currents; regularity; vestibular ganglion neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysics
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Ganglia, Sensory / cytology*
  • KCNQ Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Vestibular Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Vestibular Nerve / physiology


  • KCNQ Potassium Channels
  • Sodium
  • Potassium