Effects of dendritic morphology on CA3 pyramidal cell electrophysiology: a simulation study

Brain Res. 2002 Jun 21;941(1-2):11-28. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(02)02488-5.


We investigated the effect of morphological differences on neuronal firing behavior within the hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cell family by using three-dimensional reconstructions of dendritic morphology in computational simulations of electrophysiology. In this paper, we report for the first time that differences in dendritic structure within the same morphological class can have a dramatic influence on the firing rate and firing mode (spiking versus bursting and type of bursting). Our method consisted of converting morphological measurements from three-dimensional neuroanatomical data of CA3 pyramidal cells into a computational simulator format. In the simulation, active channels were distributed evenly across the cells so that the electrophysiological differences observed in the neurons would only be due to morphological differences. We found that differences in the size of the dendritic tree of CA3 pyramidal cells had a significant qualitative and quantitative effect on the electrophysiological response. Cells with larger dendritic trees: (1) had a lower burst rate, but a higher spike rate within a burst, (2) had higher thresholds for transitions from quiescent to bursting and from bursting to regular spiking and (3) tended to burst with a plateau. Dendritic tree size alone did not account for all the differences in electrophysiological responses. Differences in apical branching, such as the distribution of branch points and terminations per branch order, appear to effect the duration of a burst. These results highlight the importance of considering the contribution of morphology in electrophysiological and simulation studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendrites*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / anatomy & histology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats