Mathematical models describing the dynamics of the cardiac action potential are of great value for understanding how changes to the system can disrupt the normal electrical activity of cells and tissue in the heart. However, to represent specific data, these models must be parameterized, and adjustment of the maximum conductances of the individual contributing ionic currents is a commonly used method. Here, we present a method for investigating the uniqueness of such resulting parameterizations. Our key question is: Can the maximum conductances of a model be changed without giving any appreciable changes in the action potential? If so, the model parameters are not unique and this poses a major problem in using the models to identify changes in parameters from data, for instance, to evaluate potential drug effects. We propose a method for evaluating this uniqueness, founded on the singular value decomposition of a matrix consisting of the individual ionic currents. Small singular values of this matrix signify lack of parameter uniqueness and we show that the conclusion from linear analysis of the matrix carries over to provide insight into the uniqueness of the parameters in the nonlinear case. Using numerical experiments, we quantify the identifiability of the maximum conductances of well-known models of the cardiac action potential. Furthermore, we show how the identifiability depends on the time step used in the observation of the currents, how the application of drugs may change identifiability, and, finally, how the stimulation protocol can be used to improve the identifiability of a model.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International