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Hippocampus. 2017 Jan;27(1):89-110. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22675. Epub 2016 Nov 10.

Dendrites of dentate gyrus granule cells contribute to pattern separation by controlling sparsity.

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Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB), Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas (FORTH), Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
Department of Biology, School of Sciences and Engineering, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece.


The hippocampus plays a key role in pattern separation, the process of transforming similar incoming information to highly dissimilar, nonverlapping representations. Sparse firing granule cells (GCs) in the dentate gyrus (DG) have been proposed to undertake this computation, but little is known about which of their properties influence pattern separation. Dendritic atrophy has been reported in diseases associated with pattern separation deficits, suggesting a possible role for dendrites in this phenomenon. To investigate whether and how the dendrites of GCs contribute to pattern separation, we build a simplified, biologically relevant, computational model of the DG. Our model suggests that the presence of GC dendrites is associated with high pattern separation efficiency while their atrophy leads to increased excitability and performance impairments. These impairments can be rescued by restoring GC sparsity to control levels through various manipulations. We predict that dendrites contribute to pattern separation as a mechanism for controlling sparsity.


computational model; hippocampus; memory; network model

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