The rich dynamical nature of neurons poses major conceptual and technical challenges for unraveling their nonlinear membrane properties. Traditionally, various current waveforms have been injected at the soma to probe neuron dynamics, but the rationale for selecting specific stimuli has never been rigorously justified. The present experimental and theoretical study proposes a novel framework, inspired by learning theory, for objectively selecting the stimuli that best unravel the neuron's dynamics. The efficacy of stimuli is assessed in terms of their ability to constrain the parameter space of biophysically detailed conductance-based models that faithfully replicate the neuron's dynamics as attested by their ability to generalize well to the neuron's response to novel experimental stimuli. We used this framework to evaluate a variety of stimuli in different types of cortical neurons, ages and animals. Despite their simplicity, a set of stimuli consisting of step and ramp current pulses outperforms synaptic-like noisy stimuli in revealing the dynamics of these neurons. The general framework that we propose paves a new way for defining, evaluating and standardizing effective electrical probing of neurons and will thus lay the foundation for a much deeper understanding of the electrical nature of these highly sophisticated and non-linear devices and of the neuronal networks that they compose. © 2011 Druckmann et al.
Druckmann, S., Berger, T. K., Schürmann, F., Hill, S., Markram, H., & Segev, I. (2011). Effective stimuli for constructing reliable neuron models. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002133