A Phantom Bursting Mechanism for Episodic Bursting

Richard Bertram, Joseph Rhoads, Wendy P. Cimbora

We describe a novel dynamic mechanism for episodic or compound bursting oscillations, in which bursts of electrical impulses are clustered together into episodes, separated by long silent phases. We demonstrate the mechanism for episodic bursting using a minimal mathematical model for "phantom bursting". Depending on the location in parameter space, this model can produce fast, medium, or slow bursting, or in the present case, fast, slow, and episodic bursting. The episodic bursting is modestly robust to noise and to parameter variation, and the effect that noise has on the episodic bursting pattern is quite different from that of an alternate episodic burst mechanism in which the slow envelope is produced by metabolic oscillations. This mechanism could account for episodic bursting produced in endocrine cells or neurons, such as pancreatic islets or gonadotropin releasing neurons of the hypothalamus.