state · transition


class StateTransitionEvent

ste = h.StateTransitionEvent(nstate, [pointprocess])


A StateTransitionEvent describes a finite state machine which is computed during a simulation run and moves instantaneously from one state to another as trigger threshold conditions become true according to transitions defined by the set of ste.transition specifications. Generally, it is the case that when a transition occurs, a callback is executed.

nstate is the number of states available to the machine and must be > 0 (1 is valid). If a state index, istate, is not the destination of a StateTransitionEvent.transition(), then the only way to reach it is via an interpreter call to StateTransitionEvent.state() with arg istate. If istate is not the source for a transition, then the only exit from it is when a transition enters it and the consequent callback executes a StateTransitionEvent.state() with arg different from istate.

The pointprocess arg is needed only if the simulation uses multiple threads or the local variable time step method. (an admittedly grotesque requirement to give a hint as to which thread and cell is appropriate for all the trigger variables specified by the transitions)


from neuron import h
h.load_file("stdrun.hoc") # use, h.cvode, etc

soma = h.Section(name="soma") # empty model not allowed.
ste = h.StateTransitionEvent(1)

tnext = h.ref(1)

def fteinit():
  tnext[0] = 1.0 # first transition at 1.0
  ste.state(0)   # initial state

fih = h.FInitializeHandler(1, fteinit)

def foo(src): # current state is the destination. arg gives the source
  print(f'{h.t} transition {src} {int(ste.state())} t-tnext = {h.t-tnext[0]}')
  tnext[0] += 1.0 # update for next transition

ste.transition(0, 0, h._ref_t, tnext, (foo, 0))

print("default dt=0.025 fixed step run")

h.steps_per_ms = 64
h.dt = 1.0/h.steps_per_ms
print(f"dt=1/64 fixed step run {h.dt}")

for i in [1,2]:
  print(f"cvode.condition_order() = {h.cvode.condition_order()}")

The results of a run are:

$ nrniv -python
NEURON -- VERSION 7.4 (1353:fa0eeb93b0fb) 2015-07-22
Duke, Yale, and the BlueBrain Project -- Copyright 1984-2015

default dt=0.025 fixed step run
1.025  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.025
2.025  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.025
3.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 8.881784197e-15
4.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 2.30926389122e-14
dt=1/64 fixed step run  0.015625
1.015625  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.015625
2.015625  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.015625
3.015625  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.015625
4.015625  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.015625
cvode.condition_order() = 1
3.43225906488  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 2.43225906488
cvode.condition_order() = 2
1.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = -1.11022302463e-16
2.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.0
3.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.0
4.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.0
5.0  transition  0 0  t-tnext = 0.0

Note that the dt=0.025 fixed step run exhibits round off errors with respect to repeated addition of dt to t when dt is not an exact binary fraction.

Note that when dt is an exact binary fraction (1/64) and the trigger variable exactly equals the trigger threshold, that does not constitute (triggervar - triggerthreash > 0) == true and so the transition occurs at the end of the next step.

Note that cvode with condition order 1 uses very large time steps with this trivial model. This is not necessarily a problem in practice as time steps are generally quite small when states are changing rapidly. However, one should consider the benefits of condition order 2.


istate = ste.state()


Description: With no args, returns the index of the current state. With an arg, sets the current state to the istate index.

When setting a state, the transitions from the previous state are deactivated and all the transitions leaving the istate index become possible during future time steps.

The user should supply a type 1 FInitializeHandler callback to set the initial state index (and perhaps set state dependent transition trigger threshold values) when a new simulation run begins.


ste.transition(isrcstate, ideststate, _ref_triggervar, _ref_triggerthresh, pycallable)


Adds a transition from the isrcstate of the StateTransitionEvent instance to the ideststate. Isrcstate and ideststate must be >= 0 and < nstate (number of states specified in the constructor). Isrcstate == ideststate is allowed.

A transition occurs when triggervar becomes greater than triggerthresh. Note: with the fixed step methog a transition does NOT occur when it merely becomes equal. Note: a transition does not occur if the isrcstate is entered and triggervar is greater than triggerthresh - float_epsilon. ie. triggervar must first become not greater than triggervar and then become greater for the transition to occur. (The value of float_epsilon is used internally to prevent undesirable multiple events due to round-off error when cvode.condition_order is activated and transition destination is the same as source. (Another way of preventing premature firing of state transitions is to instead move to a different state and move back via a transition with a slightly higher threshold)

On each time step, the transitions from a source state are checked in the order in which they are created and the first true condition specifies the transition to be taken. But note a subtlety with regard to the variable step methods with cvode.condition_order(2). Since that involves interpolation back to the time at which the threshold crossing actually occurred, the transition with the earliest crossing will be the one actually taken.

The triggervar may be the NEURON time variable t (in this case, pass h._ref_t for the _ref_triggervar argument. This will work properly with threads and local variable time steps as the system will point to the correct thread/cvode instance time. NEURON time as a triggerthresh will work correctly only for single thread fixed and global variable step methods and otherwise allow a race condition. Note that with multiple threads or the local variable time step method. All triggervar for a given ste need to be in the same thread or cell as was specified by the StateTransitionEvent constructor.

The direction sense of threshold crossing can be reversed by reversing the order of the _ref_triggervar and _ref_triggerthresh args.

In Python, the syntax for a triggervar reference is, for example, h._ref_t or sec(.5)._ref_v . A reference to a hoc variable is also allowed for a triggerthreash, but if the triggerthresh is a constant, one can declare a Python reference with triggerthresh = h.ref(value) and pass that for the triggerthresh arg. One changes its value via the triggerthresh[0] = ... syntax. Since the ste object keeps pointers to these values, it is very important that triggerthresh not be destroyed unless the ste instance is also destroyed.

statement or pycallable are optional arguments. They are executed when the transition takes place. Note that number of distinct def for pycallable for each transition can be reduced by using the syntax for callback with args, (pycallable, (arg1, arg2,...)) and if a callback arg is a list or dict, it can be changed by the pycallable.


A time triggervar is handled the same way as any other range variable such as membrane potential. That is, it is compared every time step to its corresponding triggerthresh. It would be more efficient in most cases to handle it as a normal time event. Perhaps a time event method will be eventually integrated into the StateTransitionEvent class. Note that cvode.event(tevent, callback) is almost ok as it is easy to activate the transition when entering the source state. However, one must remember to logically deactivate it if a different transition leaving the source state takes place.

Internal pointers to Triggervar and triggerthresh do not know if those variables have been destroyed. To avoid using freed memory, it is up to the user to avoid this possibility.

That a transition requires a threshold crossing can be occasionally limiting when one wished to check a condition and immediately leave a state on entering it. However, the callback can change the current state and that will become the activated state on return from the callback.