Dynamics of learning-induced spine redistribution along dendrites of pyramidal neurons in rats

Eur J Neurosci. 2005 Feb;21(4):927-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2005.03936.x.


We have previously shown that olfactory-discrimination (OD) learning is accompanied by enhanced spine density along proximal apical dendrites of layer II pyramidal neurons in the piriform (olfactory) cortex. Here we studied the temporal dynamics of learning-induced modifications in dendritic spine density throughout the dendritic trees of these neurons. We observed a transient increase in proximal apical spine density after OD learning, suggesting a strengthening of intrinsic excitatory inputs interconnecting neurons within the olfactory cortex. By contrast, the afferent pathway receiving direct input from the olfactory bulb shows spine pruning, suggesting that the connectivity is weakened. The changes in spine density can be attributed to a net change in number of spines, as the morphometric parameters of the dendrites are unaffected by learning. We suggest that spine density changes may represent a mechanism of selective synaptic reorganization required for olfactory learning consolidation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Silver Staining / methods
  • Time Factors