Heterosynaptic plasticity in the neocortex

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Dec;199(3-4):377-90. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1859-5.


Ongoing learning continuously shapes the distribution of neurons' synaptic weights in a system with plastic synapses. Plasticity may change the weights of synapses that were active during the induction-homosynaptic changes, but also may change synapses not active during the induction-heterosynaptic changes. Here we will argue, that heterosynaptic and homosynaptic plasticity are complementary processes, and that heterosynaptic plasticity might accompany homosynaptic plasticity induced by typical pairing protocols. Synapses are not uniform in their susceptibility for plastic changes, but have predispositions to undergo potentiation or depression, or not to change. Predisposition is one of the factors determining the direction and magnitude of homo- and heterosynaptic changes. Heterosynaptic changes which take place according to predispositions for plasticity may provide a useful mechanism(s) for homeostasis of neurons' synaptic weights and extending the lifetime of memory traces during ongoing learning in neuronal networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neocortex / cytology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Potentials / physiology