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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jun;97(6):3948-60. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

Synaptic amplification versus bistability in motoneuron dendritic processing: a top-down modeling approach.

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Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Motoneurons have been shown to exhibit both bistable firing and synaptic amplification. Both of these behaviors have generally been attributed to a single mechanism-dendritic plateau potentials based on L-type Ca(2+) conductances. However, our recent discovery of a fast-amplification mode calls this into question. Here we examine the possibility that two mechanisms underlie these behaviors, one being a slow-mode bistability mechanism (i.e., the L-type Ca(2+)-conductance-based dendritic plateaus) and the other being a theoretical fast-mode amplification mechanism. A "top-down" motoneuron model that encapsulated these and other hypotheses was developed in which these mechanisms could be explored. The resulting final model simultaneously exhibits synaptic amplification, plateau potential formation, bistable firing patterns, and current-voltage (I-V) and frequency-current (F-I) hystereses. This model suggests that amplification and plateaus are mutually exclusive in the same dendrite/dendritic branch. Thus we predict that plateau generation does not occur in all dendritic branches. This could be readily accomplished by a large degree of variation in the density of L-type Ca(2+) channels believed to underlie plateau formation in these cells with the added benefit of spreading plateau onset over a wider voltage range, as is observed experimentally.

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