Formation of dendritic spines with GABAergic synapses induced by whisker stimulation in adult mice

Neuron. 2002 Apr 11;34(2):265-73. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00663-3.


During development, alterations in sensory experience modify the structure of cortical neurons, particularly at the level of the dendritic spine. Are similar adaptations involved in plasticity of the adult cortex? Here we show that a 24 hr period of single whisker stimulation in freely moving adult mice increases, by 36%, the total synaptic density in the corresponding cortical barrel. This is due to an increase in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses found on spines. Four days after stimulation, the inhibitory inputs to the spines remain despite total synaptic density returning to pre-stimulation levels. Functional analysis of layer IV cells demonstrated altered response properties, immediately after stimulation, as well as four days later. These results indicate activity-dependent alterations in synaptic circuitry in adulthood, modifying the flow of sensory information into the cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Vibrissae / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid