Origin of finite pulse trains: Homoclinic snaking in excitable media Academic Article uri icon


  • Many physical, chemical, and biological systems exhibit traveling waves as a result of either an oscillatory instability or excitability. In the latter case a large multiplicity of stable spatially localized wavetrains consisting of different numbers of traveling pulses may be present. The existence of these states is related here to the presence of homoclinic snaking in the vicinity of a subcritical, finite wavenumber Hopf bifurcation. The pulses are organized in a slanted snaking structure resulting from the presence of a heteroclinic cycle between small and large amplitude traveling waves. Connections of this type require a multivalued dispersion relation. This dispersion relation is computed numerically and used to interpret the profile of the pulse group. The different spatially localized pulse trains can be accessed by appropriately customized initial stimuli, thereby blurring the traditional distinction between oscillatory and excitable systems. The results reveal a new class of phenomena relevant to spatiotemporal dynamics of excitable media, particularly in chemical and biological systems with multiple activators and inhibitors.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015