Most excitatory input in the hippocampus impinges on dendritic spines. Therefore, the dendritic spines are likely to be of major importance for neural processing. The morphology of dendritic spines is very diverse and changes in spine size as well as in their density are thought to reflect changes in the strength of synaptic transmission. Thus, alterations in dendritic spine densities or shape are suspected to be morphological manifestations of psychopathological, pathophysiological, physiological and/or behavioural changes. However, in spite of a long history of research, the specific function of dendritic spines within the hippocampal formation is still not well understood. This review will shed light on the hippocampal dendritic spines, their ultrastructure and morphology, as well as their supposed roles in neuronal plasticity and in certain mental illnesses.
2009 Elsevier GmbH.