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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(7):e1002599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002599. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Location-dependent excitatory synaptic interactions in pyramidal neuron dendrites.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America. behabadi@qualcomm.com

Abstract

Neocortical pyramidal neurons (PNs) receive thousands of excitatory synaptic contacts on their basal dendrites. Some act as classical driver inputs while others are thought to modulate PN responses based on sensory or behavioral context, but the biophysical mechanisms that mediate classical-contextual interactions in these dendrites remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that if two excitatory pathways bias their synaptic projections towards proximal vs. distal ends of the basal branches, the very different local spike thresholds and attenuation factors for inputs near and far from the soma might provide the basis for a classical-contextual functional asymmetry. Supporting this possibility, we found both in compartmental models and electrophysiological recordings in brain slices that the responses of basal dendrites to spatially separated inputs are indeed strongly asymmetric. Distal excitation lowers the local spike threshold for more proximal inputs, while having little effect on peak responses at the soma. In contrast, proximal excitation lowers the threshold, but also substantially increases the gain of distally-driven responses. Our findings support the view that PN basal dendrites possess significant analog computing capabilities, and suggest that the diverse forms of nonlinear response modulation seen in the neocortex, including uni-modal, cross-modal, and attentional effects, could depend in part on pathway-specific biases in the spatial distribution of excitatory synaptic contacts onto PN basal dendritic arbors.

PMID:
22829759
PMCID:
PMC3400572
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002599
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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