An ephaptic transmission model of CA3 pyramidal cells: An investigation into electric field effects

Xile Wei, Yinhong Chen, Meili Lu, Bin Deng, Haitao Yu, Jiang Wang, Yanqiu Che, Chunxiao Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Extracellular electric fields existing throughout the living brain affect the neural coding and information processing via ephaptic transmission, independent of synapses. A two-compartment whole field effect model (WFEM) of pyramidal neurons embedded within a resistive array which simulates the extracellular medium i.e. ephapse is developed to study the effects of electric field on neuronal behaviors. We derive the two linearized filed effect models (LFEM-1 and LFEM-2) from WFEM at the stable resting state. Through matching these simplified models to the subthreshold membrane response in experiments of the resting pyramidal cells exposed to applied electric fields, we not only verify our proposed model's validity but also found the key parameters which dominate subthreshold frequency response characteristic. Moreover, we find and give its underlying biophysical mechanism that the unsymmetrical properties of active ion channels results in the very different low-frequency response of somatic and dendritic compartments. Following, WFEM is used to investigate both direct-current (DC) and alternating-current field effect on the neural firing patterns by bifurcation analyses. We present that DC electric field could modulate neuronal excitability, with the positive field improving the excitability, the modest negative field suppressing the excitability, but interestingly, the larger negative field reexciting the neuron back into spiking behavior. The neuron exposed to the sinusoidal electric field exhibits abundant firing patterns sensitive to the input frequency and intensity. In addition, the electrical properties of ephapse can modulate the efficacy of field effect. Our simulated results are qualitatively in line with the relevant experimental results and can explain some experimental phenomena. Furthermore, they are helpful to provide the predictions which can be tested in future experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-197
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Neurodynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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