Biological Cybernetics 105: 167-180, 2011.
A wide diversity of models have been proposed to account for the spiking response of central neurons, from the integrate-and-fire (IF) model and its quadratic and exponential variants, to multiple-variable models such as the Izhikevich (IZ) model and the well-known Hodgkin-Huxley (HH) type models. Such models can capture different aspects of the spiking response of neurons, but there is few objective comparison of their performance. In this paper, we provide such a comparison in the context of well-defined stimulation protocols, including, for each cell, DC stimulation and a series of excitatory conductance injections, arising in the presence of synaptic background activity. We use the dynamic-clamp technique to characterize the response of regular-spiking neurons from guinea-pig visual cortex by computing families of post-stimulus time histograms (PSTH), for different stimulus intensities, and for two different background activities (low- and high-conductance states). The data obtained are then used to fit different classes of models such as the IF, IZ or HH types, which are constrained by the whole data set. This analysis shows that HH models are generally more accurate to fit the series of experimental PSTH, but their performance is almost equaled by much simpler models, such as the exponential or pulse-based IF models. Similar conclusions were also reached by performing partial fitting of the data, and examining the ability of different models to predict responses that were not used for the fitting. Although such results must be qualified by using more sophisticated stimulation protocols, they suggest that nonlinear IF models can capture surprisingly well the response of cortical regular-spiking neurons and appear as useful candidates for network simulations with conductance-based synaptic interactions.