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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Oct;94(4):2785-96. Epub 2005 Jun 29.

Dynamic spatiotemporal synaptic integration in cortical neurons: neuronal gain, revisited.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel.


Gain modulation is a ubiquitous phenomenon in cortical neurons, providing flexibility to operate under changing conditions. The prevailing view is that this modulation reflects a change in the relationship between mean input and output firing rate brought about by variation in neuronal membrane characteristics. An alternative mechanism is proposed for neuronal gain modulation that takes into account the capability of cortical neurons to process spatiotemporal synaptic correlations. Through the use of numerical simulations, it is shown that voltage-gated and leak conductances, membrane potential, noise, and input firing rate modify the sensitivity of cortical neurons to the degree of temporal correlation between their synaptic inputs. These changes are expressed in a change of the temporal window for synaptic integration and the range of input correlation over which response probability is graded. The study also demonstrates that temporal integration depends on the distance between the inputs and that this interplay of space and time is modulated by voltage-gated and leak conductances. Thus, gain modulation may reflect a change in the relationship between spatiotemporal synaptic correlations and output firing probability. It is further proposed that by acting synergistically with the network, dynamic spatiotemporal synaptic integration in cortical neurons may serve a functional role in the formation of dynamic cell assemblies.

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