A novel hybrid finite element method (FEM) for modeling the response of passive and active biological membranes to external stimuli is presented. The method is based on the differential equations that describe the conservation of electric flux and membrane currents. By introducing the electric flux through the cell membrane as an additional variable, the algorithm decouples the linear partial differential equation part from the nonlinear ordinary differential equation part that defines the membrane dynamics of interest. This conveniently results in two subproblems: a linear interface problem and a nonlinear initial value problem. The linear interface problem is solved with a hybrid FEM. The initial value problem is integrated by a standard ordinary differential equation solver such as the Euler and Runge-Kutta methods. During time integration, these two subproblems are solved alternatively. The algorithm can be used to model the interaction of stimuli with multiple cells of almost arbitrary geometries and complex ion-channel gating at the plasma membrane. Numerical experiments are presented demonstrating the uses of the method for modeling field stimulation and action potential propagation.
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