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Neuron. 2006 Jul 20;51(2):227-38.

A cooperative switch determines the sign of synaptic plasticity in distal dendrites of neocortical pyramidal neurons.

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  • 1Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, Department of Physiology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


Pyramidal neurons in the cerebral cortex span multiple cortical layers. How the excitable properties of pyramidal neuron dendrites allow these neurons to both integrate activity and store associations between different layers is not well understood, but is thought to rely in part on dendritic backpropagation of action potentials. Here we demonstrate that the sign of synaptic plasticity in neocortical pyramidal neurons is regulated by the spread of the backpropagating action potential to the synapse. This creates a progressive gradient between LTP and LTD as the distance of the synaptic contacts from the soma increases. At distal synapses, cooperative synaptic input or dendritic depolarization can switch plasticity between LTD and LTP by boosting backpropagation of action potentials. This activity-dependent switch provides a mechanism for associative learning across different neocortical layers that process distinct types of information.

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