Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurophysiol. 2013 Jan;109(2):603-20. doi: 10.1152/jn.00528.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Reliable evaluation of the quantal determinants of synaptic efficacy using Bayesian analysis.

Author information

Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Communication between neurones in the central nervous system depends on synaptic transmission. The efficacy of synapses is determined by pre- and postsynaptic factors that can be characterized using quantal parameters such as the probability of neurotransmitter release, number of release sites, and quantal size. Existing methods of estimating the quantal parameters based on multiple probability fluctuation analysis (MPFA) are limited by their requirement for long recordings to acquire substantial data sets. We therefore devised an algorithm, termed Bayesian Quantal Analysis (BQA), that can yield accurate estimates of the quantal parameters from data sets of as small a size as 60 observations for each of only 2 conditions of release probability. Computer simulations are used to compare its performance in accuracy with that of MPFA, while varying the number of observations and the simulated range in release probability. We challenge BQA with realistic complexities characteristic of complex synapses, such as increases in the intra- or intersite variances, and heterogeneity in release probabilities. Finally, we validate the method using experimental data obtained from electrophysiological recordings to show that the effect of an antagonist on postsynaptic receptors is correctly characterized by BQA by a specific reduction in the estimates of quantal size. Since BQA routinely yields reliable estimates of the quantal parameters from small data sets, it is ideally suited to identify the locus of synaptic plasticity for experiments in which repeated manipulations of the recording environment are unfeasible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center