Compartmental neural simulations with spatial adaptivity

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Since their inception, computational models have become increasingly complex and useful counterparts to laboratory experiments within the field of neuroscience. Today several software programs exist to solve the underlying mathematical system of equations, but such programs typically solve these equations in all parts of a cell (or network of cells) simultaneously, regardless of whether or not all of the cell is active. This approach can be inefficient if only part of the cell is active and many simulations must be performed. We have previously developed a numerical method that provides a framework for spatial adaptivity by making the computations local to individual branches rather than entire cells (Rempe and Chopp, SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, 28: 2139–2161, 2006). Once the computation is reduced to the level of branches instead of cells, spatial adaptivity is straightforward: the active regions of the cell are detected and computational effort is focused there, while saving computations in other regions of the cell that are at or near rest. Here we apply the adaptive method to four realistic neuronal simulation scenarios and demonstrate its improved efficiency over non-adaptive methods. We find that the computational cost of the method scales with the amount of activity present in the simulation, rather than the physical size of the system being simulated. For certain problems spatial adaptivity reduces the computation time by up to 80%.

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