A Mean-Field Description of Bursting Dynamics in Spiking Neural Networks with Short-Term Adaptation

Neural Comput. 2020 Sep;32(9):1615-1634. doi: 10.1162/neco_a_01300. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Bursting plays an important role in neural communication. At the population level, macroscopic bursting has been identified in populations of neurons that do not express intrinsic bursting mechanisms. For the analysis of phase transitions between bursting and non-bursting states, mean-field descriptions of macroscopic bursting behavior are a valuable tool. In this article, we derive mean-field descriptions of populations of spiking neurons and examine whether states of collective bursting behavior can arise from short-term adaptation mechanisms. Specifically, we consider synaptic depression and spike-frequency adaptation in networks of quadratic integrate-and-fire neurons. Analyzing the mean-field model via bifurcation analysis, we find that bursting behavior emerges for both types of short-term adaptation. This bursting behavior can coexist with steady-state behavior, providing a bistable regime that allows for transient switches between synchronized and nonsynchronized states of population dynamics. For all of these findings, we demonstrate a close correspondence between the spiking neural network and the mean-field model. Although the mean-field model has been derived under the assumptions of an infinite population size and all-to-all coupling inside the population, we show that this correspondence holds even for small, sparsely coupled networks. In summary, we provide mechanistic descriptions of phase transitions between bursting and steady-state population dynamics, which play important roles in both healthy neural communication and neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology