Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 211–223 | Cite as

Phase-resetting curve determines how BK currents affect neuronal firing

  • Cheng Ly
  • Tamar Melman
  • Alison L. Barth
  • G. Bard ErmentroutEmail author


BK channels are large conductance potassium channels gated by calcium and voltage. Paradoxically, blocking these channels has been shown experimentally to increase or decrease the firing rate of neurons, depending on the neural subtype and brain region. The mechanism for how this current can alter the firing rates of different neurons remains poorly understood. Using phase-resetting curve (PRC) theory, we determine when BK channels increase or decrease the firing rates in neural models. The addition of BK currents always decreases the firing rate when the PRC has only a positive region. When the PRC has a negative region (type II), BK currents can increase the firing rate. The influence of BK channels on firing rate in the presence of other conductances, such as I m and I h , as well as with different amplitudes of depolarizing input, were also investigated. These results provide a formal explanation for the apparently contradictory effects of BK channel antagonists on firing rates.


BK channel Phase-resetting curve (PRC) Outward current h-current m-current 



CL is supported by an NSF Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship # DMS-0703502. ALB is supported by a Society for Neuroscience Research Innovation Award. GBE is supported by an NSF grant # DMS-0817131.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheng Ly
    • 1
  • Tamar Melman
    • 2
  • Alison L. Barth
    • 2
  • G. Bard Ermentrout
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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