Wave train selection by invasion fronts in the FitzHugh-Nagumo equation

Paul Carter, Arnd Scheel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We study invasion fronts in the FitzHugh-Nagumo equation in the oscillatory regime using singular perturbation techniques. Phenomenologically, localized perturbations of the unstable steady-state grow and spread, creating temporal oscillations whose phase is modulated spatially. The phase modulation appears to be selected by an invasion front that describes the behavior in the leading edge of the spreading process. We construct these invasion fronts for large regions of parameter space using singular perturbation techniques. Key ingredients are the construction of periodic orbits, their unstable manifolds, and the analysis of pushed and pulled fronts in the fast system. Our results predict the wavenumbers and frequencies of oscillations in the wake of the front through a phase locking mechanism. We also identify a parameter regime where nonlinear phase locked fronts are inaccessible in the singularly perturbed geometry of the traveling-wave equation. Direct simulations confirm our predictions and point to interesting phase slip dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5536-5572
Number of pages37
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 7 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AS gratefully acknowledges support through NSF grants DMS–1311740 and DMS-1612441.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 IOP Publishing Ltd & London Mathematical Society.


  • FitzHugh-Nagumo
  • geometric singular perturbation theory
  • invasion fronts
  • spreading speed


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