Spontaneous action potentials and neural coding in unmyelinated axons

Cian O'Donnell, Mark C W van Rossum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The voltage-gated Na and K channels in neurons are responsible for action potential generation. Because ion channels open and close in a stochastic fashion, spontaneous (ectopic) action potentials can result even in the absence of stimulation. While spontaneous action potentials have been studied in detail in single-compartment models, studies on spatially extended processes have been limited. The simulations and analysis presented here show that spontaneous rate in unmyelinated axon depends nonmonotonically on the length of the axon, that the spontaneous activity has sub-Poisson statistics, and that neural coding can be hampered by the spontaneous spikes by reducing the probability of transmitting the first spike in a train.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-18
Number of pages18
JournalNeural Computation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2015


  • Action Potentials/physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons/physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated/physiology
  • Neurons/cytology


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