Estimating synaptic parameters from mean, variance, and covariance in trains of synaptic responses

Biophys J. 2001 Oct;81(4):1970-89. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(01)75848-1.


Fluctuation analysis of synaptic transmission using the variance-mean approach has been restricted in the past to steady-state responses. Here we extend this method to short repetitive trains of synaptic responses, during which the response amplitudes are not stationary. We consider intervals between trains, long enough so that the system is in the same average state at the beginning of each train. This allows analysis of ensemble means and variances for each response in a train separately. Thus, modifications in synaptic efficacy during short-term plasticity can be attributed to changes in synaptic parameters. In addition, we provide practical guidelines for the analysis of the covariance between successive responses in trains. Explicit algorithms to estimate synaptic parameters are derived and tested by Monte Carlo simulations on the basis of a binomial model of synaptic transmission, allowing for quantal variability, heterogeneity in the release probability, and postsynaptic receptor saturation and desensitization. We find that the combined analysis of variance and covariance is advantageous in yielding an estimate for the number of release sites, which is independent of heterogeneity in the release probability under certain conditions. Furthermore, it allows one to calculate the apparent quantal size for each response in a sequence of stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Probability
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*