Pulse dynamics in a three-component system: Existence analysis

Arjen Doelman, Peter Van Heijster, Tasso J. Kaper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we analyze the three-component reaction-diffusion system originally developed by Schenk et al. (PRL 78:3781-3784, 1997). The system consists of bistable activator-inhibitor equations with an additional inhibitor that diffuses more rapidly than the standard inhibitor (or recovery variable). It has been used by several authors as a prototype three-component system that generates rich pulse dynamics and interactions, and this richness is the main motivation for the analysis we present. We demonstrate the existence of stationary one-pulse and two-pulse solutions, and travelling one-pulse solutions, on the real line, and we determine the parameter regimes in which they exist. Also, for one-pulse solutions, we analyze various bifurcations, including the saddle-node bifurcation in which they are created, as well as the bifurcation from a stationary to a travelling pulse, which we show can be either subcritical or supercritical. For two-pulse solutions, we show that the third component is essential, since the reduced bistable two-component system does not support them. We also analyze the saddle-node bifurcation in which two-pulse solutions are created. The analytical method used to construct all of these pulse solutions is geometric singular perturbation theory, which allows us to show that these solutions lie in the transverse intersections of invariant manifolds in the phase space of the associated six-dimensional travelling wave system. Finally, as we illustrate with numerical simulations, these solutions form the backbone of the rich pulse dynamics this system exhibits, including pulse replication, pulse annihilation, breathing pulses, and pulse scattering, among others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-115
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Dynamics and Differential Equations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Geometric singular perturbation theory
  • Melnikov function
  • One-pulse solutions
  • Three-component reaction-diffusion systems
  • Travelling pulse solutions
  • Two-pulse solutions

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