Studying properties of neurotransmitter receptors by non-stationary noise analysis of spontaneous postsynaptic currents and agonist-evoked responses in outside-out patches

Nat Protoc. 2007;2(2):434-48. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2007.47.


Chemical synaptic transmission depends on neurotransmitter-gated ion channels concentrated in the postsynaptic membrane of specialized synaptic contacts. The functional characteristics of these neurotransmitter receptor channels are important for determining the properties of synaptic transmission. Whole-cell recording of postsynaptic currents (PSCs) and outside-out patch recording of transmitter-evoked currents are important tools for estimating the single-channel conductance and the number of receptors contributing to the PSC activated by a single transmitter quantum. When single-channel activity cannot be directly resolved, non-stationary noise analysis is a valuable tool for determining these parameters. Peak-scaled non-stationary noise analysis can be used to compensate for quantal variability in synaptic currents. Here, we present detailed protocols for conventional and peak-scaled non-stationary noise analysis of spontaneous PSCs and responses in outside-out patches. In addition, we include examples of computer code for individual functions used in the different stages of non-stationary noise analysis. These analysis procedures require 3-8 h.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurophysiology / methods*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter