The influence of intrinsic channel noise on the spiking activity of excitable membrane patches is studied by use of a stochastic generalization of the Hodgkin-Huxley model. Internal noise stemming from the stochastic dynamics of individual ion channels does affect the electric properties of the cell-membrane patches. There exists an optimal size of the membrane patch for which the internal noise alone can cause a nearly regular spontaneous generation of action potentials. We consider the influence of intrinsic channel noise in presence of a constant and an oscillatory current driving for both, the mean interspike interval and the phenomenon of coherence resonance for neuronal spiking. Given small membrane patches, implying that channel noise dominates the excitable dynamics, we find the phenomenon of intrinsic coherence resonance. In this case, the relatively regular spiking behavior becomes essentially independent of an applied stimulus. We observed, however, the occurrence of a skipping of supra-threshold input events due to channel noise for intermediate patch sizes. This effect consequently reduces the overall coherence of the spiking. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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