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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Oct;94(4):2526-34.

Dynamic-clamp analysis of the effects of convergence on spike timing. II. Few synaptic inputs.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA.


Sensory pathways in the nervous system possess mechanisms for decreasing spike-timing variability ("jitter"), probably to increase acuity. Most studies of jitter reduction have focused on convergence of many subthreshold inputs. However, many neurons receive only a few active inputs at any given time, and jitter reduction under these conditions is not well understood. We examined this issue using dynamic-clamp recordings in slices from mouse auditory brain stem. Significant jitter reduction was possible with as few as two inputs, provided the inputs had several features. First, jitter reduction was greatest and most reliable for supra-threshold inputs. Second, significant jitter reduction occurred when the distribution of input times had a rapid onset, i.e., for alpha- but not for Gaussian-distributed inputs. Third, jitter reduction was compromised unless late inputs were suppressed by the refractory period of the cell. These results contrast with the finding in the previous paper in which many subthreshold inputs contribute to jitter reduction, whether alpha- or Gaussian-distributed. In addition, convergence of many subthreshold inputs could fail to elicit any postsynaptic response when the input distribution outlasted the refractory period of the cell. These significant differences indicate that each means of reducing jitter has advantages and disadvantages and may be more effective for different neurons depending on the properties of their inputs.

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