Existence and stability of traveling waves in buffered systems

Je Chiang Tsai*, James Sneyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


We study wave propagation in the buffered bistable equation, i.e., the bistable equation where the diffusing species reacts with immobile buffers that restrict its diffusion. Such a model describes wave front propagation in excitable systems where the diffusing species is buffered; in particular, the study of the propagation of waves of increased calcium concentration in a variety of cell types depends directly upon the analysis of such buffered excitability. However, despite the biological importance of these types of equations, there have been almost no analytical studies of their properties. Here, we study the question of whether or not the inclusion of multiple buffers can eliminate propagated waves. First, we prove that a unique (up to translation) traveling wave front exists. Moreover, the wave speed is also unique. Then we prove that this traveling wave front is stable, i.e., that any initial condition which vaguely resembles a traveling wave front (in a way we make precise) evolves to the unique wave front. We thus prove that multiple stationary buffers cannot prevent the existence of a traveling wave front in the buffered bistable equation and may not eliminate stable wave fronts. This suggests (although we do not prove) that the same result is true for more complex and realistic models of calcium wave propagation, a result of direct physiological relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-265
Number of pages29
JournalSIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bistable equation
  • Calcium
  • FitzHugh-Nagumo equations
  • Reaction-diffusion equations
  • Stability
  • Traveling wave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics


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