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J Neurosci. 2006 Dec 6;26(49):12717-26.

Plasticity compartments in basal dendrites of neocortical pyramidal neurons.

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Department of Physiology, Technion Medical School, Haifa 31096, Israel.


Synaptic plasticity rules widely determine how cortical networks develop and store information. Using confocal imaging and dual site focal synaptic stimulation, we show that basal dendrites, which receive the majority of synapses innervating neocortical pyramidal neurons, contain two compartments with respect to plasticity rules. Synapses innervating the proximal basal tree are easily modified when paired with the global activity of the neuron. In contrast, synapses innervating the distal basal tree fail to change in response to global suprathreshold activity or local dendritic spikes. These synapses can undergo long-term potentiation under unusual conditions when local NMDA spikes, which evoke large calcium transients, are paired with a "gating molecule," BDNF. Moreover, these synapses use a new temporal plasticity rule, which is an order of magnitude longer than spike timing dependent plasticity and prefers reversed presynaptic/postsynaptic activation order. The newly described plasticity compartmentalization of basal dendrites expands the networks plasticity rules and may support different learning and developmental functions.

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