We consider a classical space-clamped Hodgkin-Huxley model neuron stimulated by synaptic excitation and inhibition with conductances represented by Ornstein-Uhlenbeck processes. Using numerical solutions of the stochastic model system obtained by an Euler method, it is found that with excitation only, there is a critical value of the steady-state excitatory conductance for repetitive spiking without noise, and for values of the conductance near the critical value, small noise has a powerfully inhibitory effect. For a given level of inhibition, there is also a critical value of the steady-state excitatory conductance for repetitive firing, and it is demonstrated that noise in either the excitatory or inhibitory processes or both can powerfully inhibit spiking. Furthermore, near the critical value, inverse stochastic resonance was observed when noise was present only in the inhibitory input process. The system of deterministic differential equations for the approximate first- and second-order moments of the model is derived. They are solved using Runge-Kutta methods, and the solutions are compared with the results obtained by simulation for various sets of parameters, including some with conductances obtained by experiment on pyramidal cells of rat prefrontal cortex. The mean and variance obtained from simulation are in good agreement when there is spiking induced by strong stimulation and relatively small noise or when the voltage is fluctuating at subthreshold levels. In the occasional spike mode sometimes exhibited by spinal motoneurons and cortical pyramidal cells, the assumptions underlying the moment equation approach are not satisfied. The simulation results show that noisy synaptic input of either an excitatory or inhibitory character or both may lead to the suppression of firing in neurons operating near a critical point and this has possible implications for cortical networks. Although suppression of firing is corroborated for the system of moment equations, there seem to be substantial differences between the dynamical properties of the original system of stochastic differential equations and the much larger system of moment equations.

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