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Dev Neurobiol. 2012 Jan;72(1):73-86. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20951.

Dendritic structural plasticity.

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Department of Molecular Neurobiology, Dendrite Differentiation Group, MPI of Neurobiology, Munich, Germany.


Dendrites represent the compartment of neurons primarily devoted to collecting and computating input. Far from being static structures, dendrites are highly dynamic during development and appear to be capable of plastic changes during the adult life of animals. During development, it is a combination of intrinsic programs and external signals that shapes dendrite morphology; input activity is a conserved extrinsic factor involved in this process. In adult life, dendrites respond with more modest modifications of their structure to various types of extrinsic information, including alterations of input activity. Here, the author reviews classical and recent evidence of dendrite plasticity in invertebrates and vertebrates and current progress in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie this plasticity. Importantly, some fundamental questions such as the functional role of dendrite remodeling and the causal link between structural modifications of neurons and plastic processes, including learning, are still open.

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