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Neurosci Res. 2013 Feb;75(2):83-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2012.12.004. Epub 2013 Jan 5.

The axon as a unique computational unit in neurons.

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Division of Cerebral Structure, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki 444-8787, Japan.


In the mammalian cortex, axons are highly ramified and link an enormous number of neurons over large distances. The conventional view assumes that action potentials (APs) are initiated at the axon initial segment in an all-or-none fashion and are then self-propagated orthodromically along axon collaterals without distortion of the AP waveform. By contrast, recent experimental results suggest that the axonal AP waveform can be modified depending on the activation states of the ion channels and receptors on axonal cell membranes. This AP modulation can regulate neurotransmission to postsynaptic neurons. In addition, the latest studies have provided evidence that cortical axons can integrate somatic burst firings and promote activity-dependent ectopic AP generation, which may underlie the oscillogenesis of fast rhythmic network activity. These seminal observations indicate that axons can perform diverse functional operations that extend beyond the prevailing model of axon physiology.

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