An increase in AMPA and a decrease in SK conductance increase burst firing by different mechanisms in a model of a dopamine neuron in vivo

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Nov;96(5):2549-63. doi: 10.1152/jn.00704.2006. Epub 2006 Aug 2.


A stylized, symmetric, compartmental model of a dopamine neuron in vivo shows how rate and pattern can be modulated either concurrently or differentially. If two or more parameters in the model are varied concurrently, the baseline firing rate and the extent of bursting become de-correlated, which provides an explanation for the lack of a tight correlation in vivo and is consistent with some independence of the mechanisms that generate baseline firing rates versus bursts. We hypothesize that most bursts are triggered by a barrage of synaptic input and that particularly meaningful stimuli recruit larger numbers of synapses in a more synchronous way. An example of concurrent modulation is that increasing the short-lived AMPA current evokes additional spikes without regard to pattern, producing comparable increases in spike frequency and fraction fired in bursts. On the other hand, blocking the SK current evokes additional bursts by allowing a depolarization that previously produced only a single spike to elicit two or more and elongates existing bursts by the same principle, resulting in a greater effect on pattern than rate. A probabilistic algorithm for the random insertion of spikes into the firing pattern produces a good approximation to the pattern changes induced by increasing the AMPA conductance, but not by blocking the SK current, consistent with a differential modulation in the latter case. Furthermore, blocking SK produced a longer burst with a greater intra-burst frequency in response to a simulated meaningful input, suggesting that reduction of this current may augment reward-related responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Extracellular Space / physiology
  • Glutamates / physiology
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Small-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Glutamates
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Small-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dopamine