Modulation of intracortical synaptic potentials by presynaptic somatic membrane potential

Nature. 2006 Jun 8;441(7094):761-5. doi: 10.1038/nature04720. Epub 2006 Apr 12.


Traditionally, neuronal operations in the cerebral cortex have been viewed as occurring through the interaction of synaptic potentials in the dendrite and soma, followed by the initiation of an action potential, typically in the axon. Propagation of this action potential to the synaptic terminals is widely believed to be the only form of rapid communication of information between the soma and axonal synapses, and hence to postsynaptic neurons. Here we show that the voltage fluctuations associated with dendrosomatic synaptic activity propagate significant distances along the axon, and that modest changes in the somatic membrane potential of the presynaptic neuron modulate the amplitude and duration of axonal action potentials and, through a Ca2+-dependent mechanism, the average amplitude of the postsynaptic potential evoked by these spikes. These results indicate that synaptic activity in the dendrite and soma controls not only the pattern of action potentials generated, but also the amplitude of the synaptic potentials that these action potentials initiate in local cortical circuits, resulting in synaptic transmission that is a mixture of triggered and graded (analogue) signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Ferrets / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission