Population density methods for large-scale modelling of neuronal networks with realistic synaptic kinetics: Cutting the dimension down to size

Evan Haskell, Duane Q. Nykamp, Daniel Tranchina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Population density methods provide promising time-saving alternatives to direct Monte Carlo simulations of neuronal network activity, in which one tracks the state of thousands of individual neurons and synapses. A population density method has been found to be roughly a hundred times faster than direct simulation for various test networks of integrate-and-fire model neurons with instantaneous excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic conductances. In this method, neurons are grouped into large populations of similar neurons. For each population, one calculates the evolution of a probability density function (PDF) which describes the distribution of neurons over state space. The population firing rate is then given by the total flux of probability across the threshold voltage for firing an action potential. Extending the method beyond instantaneous synapses is necessary for obtaining accurate results, because synaptic kinetics play an important role in network dynamics. Embellishments incorporating more realistic synaptic kinetics for the underlying neuron model increase the dimension of the PDF, which was one-dimensional in the instantaneous synapse case. This increase in dimension causes a substantial increase in computation time to find the exact PDF, decreasing the computational speed advantage of the population density method over direct Monte Carlo simulation. We report here on a one-dimensional model of the PDF for neurons with arbitrary synaptic kinetics. The method is more accurate than the mean-field method in the steady state, where the mean-field approximation works best, and also under dynamic-stimulus conditions. The method is much faster than direct simulations. Limitations of the method are demonstrated, and possible improvements are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-174
Number of pages34
JournalNetwork: Computation in Neural Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)

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