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Synapse. 2004 Aug;53(2):114-21.

Induction of long-term depression is associated with decreased dendritic length and spine density in layers III and V of sensorimotor neocortex.

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Behavioural Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) are currently the most widely investigated models of the synaptic mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Previous research has shown that induction of LTP increases measures of pyramidal cell dendritic morphology in the hippocampus and layers III and V of the neocortex. However, to date there are no reports on the direct effects of LTD induction on dendritic morphology. Here, we investigated the effects of LTD induction on sensorimotor pyramidal cell dendritic morphology. Rats carried a stimulating electrode in the corpus callosum (midline) and a recording electrode in the right sensorimotor cortex. Each rat received low-frequency stimulation composed of 900 pulses at 1 Hz or handling daily for a total 15 days. Evoked potentials (EPs) of the transcallosal pathway were recorded in the right hemisphere before and after the 15 days of stimulation or handling. The rats were then perfused with saline and the brains were immediately processed for Golgi-Cox staining. Our results show that LTD induction is related to decreases in dendritic length and spine density both in layers III and V as well as a decrease in dendritic branch complexity in layer V of the sensorimotor cortex. Thus, neuronal alterations following modifications in neocortical synaptic efficacy may provide a general mechanism for the physical instantiation of learning and memory.

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