Frontiers in Physiology (Aug 2021)

Neural Network Differential Equations For Ion Channel Modelling

  • Chon Lok Lei,
  • Chon Lok Lei,
  • Chon Lok Lei,
  • Gary R. Mirams

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12


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Mathematical models of cardiac ion channels have been widely used to study and predict the behaviour of ion currents. Typically models are built using biophysically-based mechanistic principles such as Hodgkin-Huxley or Markov state transitions. These models provide an abstract description of the underlying conformational changes of the ion channels. However, due to the abstracted conformation states and assumptions for the rates of transition between them, there are differences between the models and reality—termed model discrepancy or misspecification. In this paper, we demonstrate the feasibility of using a mechanistically-inspired neural network differential equation model, a hybrid non-parametric model, to model ion channel kinetics. We apply it to the hERG potassium ion channel as an example, with the aim of providing an alternative modelling approach that could alleviate certain limitations of the traditional approach. We compare and discuss multiple ways of using a neural network to approximate extra hidden states or alternative transition rates. In particular we assess their ability to learn the missing dynamics, and ask whether we can use these models to handle model discrepancy. Finally, we discuss the practicality and limitations of using neural networks and their potential applications.