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Learn Mem. 1999 May-Jun;6(3):284-91.

BDNF regulates the intrinsic excitability of cortical neurons.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.


Neocortical pyramidal neurons respond to prolonged activity blockade by modulating their balance of inward and outward currents to become more sensitive to synaptic input, possibly as a means of homeostatically regulating firing rates during periods of intense change in synapse number or strength. Here we show that this activity-dependent regulation of intrinsic excitability depends on the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In experiments on rat visual cortical cultures, we found that exogenous BDNF prevented, and a TrkB-IgG fusion protein reproduced, the change in pyramidal neuron excitability produced by activity blockade. Most of these effects were also observed in bipolar interneurons, indicating a very general role for BDNF in regulating neuronal excitability. Moreover, earlier work has demonstrated that BDNF mediates a different kind of homeostatic plasticity present in these same cultures: scaling of the quantal amplitude of AMPA-mediated synaptic inputs up or down as a function of activity. Taken together, these results suggest that BDNF may be the signal controlling a coordinated regulation of synaptic and intrinsic properties aimed at allowing cortical networks to adapt to long-lasting changes in activity.

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