Characterization of subthreshold voltage fluctuations in neuronal membranes.
Synaptic noise due to intense network activity can have a significant impact on the electrophysiological properties of individual neurons. This is the case for the cerebral cortex, where ongoing activity leads to strong barrages of synaptic inputs, which act as the main source of synaptic noise affecting on neuronal dynamics. Here, we characterize the subthreshold behavior of neuronal models in which synaptic noise is represented by either additive or multiplicative noise, described by Ornstein-Uhlenbeck processes. We derive and solve the Fokker-Planck equation for this system, which describes the time evolution of the probability density function for the membrane potential. We obtain an analytic expression for the membrane potential distribution at steady state and compare this expression with the subthreshold activity obtained in Hodgkin-Huxley-type models with stochastic synaptic inputs. The differences between multiplicative and additive noise models suggest that multiplicative noise is adequate to describe the high-conductance states similar to in vivo conditions. Because the steady-state membrane potential distribution is easily obtained experimentally, this approach provides a possible method to estimate the mean and variance of synaptic conductances in real neurons.