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J Neurosci. 2007 Feb 7;27(6):1271-84.

Spike timing-dependent synaptic depression in the in vivo barrel cortex of the rat.

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  • 1Unité de Neurosciences Intégratives et Computationnelles, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 91198 Gif sur Yvette, France.


Spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) is a computationally powerful form of plasticity in which synapses are strengthened or weakened according to the temporal order and precise millisecond-scale delay between presynaptic and postsynaptic spiking activity. STDP is readily observed in vitro, but evidence for STDP in vivo is scarce. Here, we studied spike timing-dependent synaptic depression in single putative pyramidal neurons of the rat primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in vivo, using two techniques. First, we recorded extracellularly from layer 2/3 (L2/3) and L5 neurons, and paired spontaneous action potentials (postsynaptic spikes) with subsequent subthreshold deflection of one whisker (to drive presynaptic afferents to the recorded neuron) to produce "post-leading-pre" spike pairings at known delays. Short delay pairings (<17 ms) resulted in a significant decrease of the extracellular spiking response specific to the paired whisker, consistent with spike timing-dependent synaptic depression. Second, in whole-cell recordings from neurons in L2/3, we paired postsynaptic spikes elicited by direct-current injection with subthreshold whisker deflection to drive presynaptic afferents to the recorded neuron at precise temporal delays. Post-leading-pre pairing (<33 ms delay) decreased the slope and amplitude of the PSP evoked by the paired whisker, whereas "pre-leading-post" delays failed to produce depression, and sometimes produced potentiation of whisker-evoked PSPs. These results demonstrate that spike timing-dependent synaptic depression occurs in S1 in vivo, and is therefore a plausible plasticity mechanism in the sensory cortex.

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