Membrane potential changes in dendritic spines during action potentials and synaptic input

Lucy M. Palmer, Greg J. Stuart

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    121 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Excitatory input onto many neurons in the brain occurs onto specialized projections called dendritic spines. Despite their potential importance in neuronal function, direct experimental evidence on electrical signaling in dendritic spines is lacking as their small size makes them inaccessible to standard electrophysiological techniques. Here, we investigate electrical signaling in dendritic spines using voltage-sensitive dye imaging in cortical pyramidal neurons during backpropagating action potentials and synaptic input. Backpropagating action potentials were found to fully invade dendritic spines without voltage loss. The voltage change in dendritic spines during synaptic input ranged from a few millivolts up to ∼20 mV. During hyperpolarization of the membrane potential, the amplitude of the synaptic voltage in spines was increased, consistent with the expected change resulting from the increased driving force. This observation suggests that voltage-activated channels do not significantly boost the voltage response in dendritic spines during synaptic input. Finally, we used simulations of our experimental observations in morphologically realistic models to estimate spine neck resistance. These simulations indicated that spine neck resistance ranges up to ∼500 MΩ. Spine neck resistances of this magnitude reduce somatic EPSPs by <15%, indicating that the spine neck is unlikely to act as a physical device to significantly modify synaptic strength.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6897-6903
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Neuroscience
    Volume29
    Issue number21
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2009

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