Properties of basal dendrites of layer 5 pyramidal neurons: a direct patch-clamp recording study

Nat Neurosci. 2007 Feb;10(2):206-14. doi: 10.1038/nn1826. Epub 2007 Jan 7.


Basal dendrites receive the majority of synapses that contact neocortical pyramidal neurons, yet our knowledge of synaptic processing in these dendrites has been hampered by their inaccessibility for electrical recordings. A new approach to patch-clamp recordings enabled us to characterize the integrative properties of these cells. Despite the short physical length of rat basal dendrites, synaptic inputs were electrotonically remote from the soma (>30-fold excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) attenuation) and back-propagating action potentials were significantly attenuated. Unitary EPSPs were location dependent, reaching large amplitudes distally (>8 mV), yet their somatic contribution was relatively location independent. Basal dendrites support sodium and NMDA spikes, but not calcium spikes, for 75% of their length. This suggests that basal dendrites, despite their proximity to the site of action potential initiation, do not form a single basal-somatic region but rather should be considered as a separate integrative compartment favoring two integration modes: subthreshold, location-independent summation versus local amplification of incoming spatiotemporally clustered information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Sodium