Density and morphology of dendritic spines in mouse neocortex

Neuroscience. 2006;138(2):403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.11.038. Epub 2006 Feb 2.


Dendritic spines of pyramidal cells are the main postsynaptic targets of cortical excitatory synapses and as such, they are fundamental both in neuronal plasticity and for the integration of excitatory inputs to pyramidal neurons. There is significant variation in the number and density of dendritic spines among pyramidal cells located in different cortical areas and species, especially in primates. This variation is believed to contribute to functional differences reported among cortical areas. In this study, we analyzed the density of dendritic spines in the motor, somatosensory and visuo-temporal regions of the mouse cerebral cortex. Over 17,000 individual spines on the basal dendrites of layer III pyramidal neurons were drawn and their morphologies compared among these cortical regions. In contrast to previous observations in primates, there was no significant difference in the density of spines along the dendrites of neurons in the mouse. However, systematic differences in spine dimensions (spine head size and spine neck length) were detected, whereby the largest spines were found in the motor region, followed by those in the somatosensory region and those in visuo-temporal region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neocortex / ultrastructure*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure