The reliability of firing of excitable-oscillating systems is studied through the response of the active rotator, a neuronal model evolving on the unit circle, to white gaussian noise. A stochastic return map is introduced that captures the behavior of the model. This map has two fixed points: one stable and the other unstable. Iterates of all initial conditions except the unstable point tend to the stable fixed point for almost all input realizations. This means that to a given input realization, there corresponds a unique asymptotic response. In this way, repetitive stimulation with the same segment of noise realization evokes, after possibly a transient time, the same response in the active rotator. In other words, this model responds reliably to such inputs. It is argued that this results from the nonuniform motion of the active rotator around the unit circle and that similar results hold for other neuronal models whose dynamics can be approximated by phase dynamics similar to the active rotator.

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