Subharmonic resonance and chaos in forced excitable systems

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Forced excitable systems arise in a number of biological and physiological applications and have been studied analytically and computationally by numerous authors. Existence and stability of harmonic and subharmonic solutions of a forced piecewise-linear Fitzhugh-Nagumo-like system were studied in Othmer ad Watanabe (1994) and in Xie et al. (1996). The results of those papers were for small and moderate amplitude forcing. In this paper we study the existence of subharmonic solutions of this system under large-amplitude forcing. As in the case of intermediate-amplitude forcing, bistability between 1:1 and 2:1 solutions is possible for some parameters. In the case of large-amplitude forcing, bistability between 2:2 and 2:1 solutions, which does not occur in the case of intermediate-amplitude forcing, is also possible for some parameters. We identify several new canonical return maps for a singular system, and we show that chaotic dynamics can occur in some regions of parameter space. We also prove that there is a direct transition from 2:2 phase-locking to chaos after the first period-doubling bifurcation, rather than via the infinite sequence of period doublings seen in a smooth quadratic interval map. Coexistence of chaotic dynamics and stable phase-locking can also occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-171
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Fitzhugh-Nagumo
  • Phase locking


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