Using computer simulations to determine the limitations of dynamic clamp stimuli applied at the soma in mimicking distributed conductance sources

J Neurophysiol. 2011 May;105(5):2610-24. doi: 10.1152/jn.00968.2010. Epub 2011 Feb 16.


In previous studies we used the technique of dynamic clamp to study how temporal modulation of inhibitory and excitatory inputs control the frequency and precise timing of spikes in neurons of the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN). Although this technique is now widely used, it is limited to interpreting conductance inputs as being location independent; i.e., all inputs that are biologically distributed across the dendritic tree are applied to the soma. We used computer simulations of a morphologically realistic model of DCN neurons to compare the effects of purely somatic vs. distributed dendritic inputs in this cell type. We applied the same conductance stimuli used in our published experiments to the model. To simulate variability in neuronal responses to repeated stimuli, we added a somatic white current noise to reproduce subthreshold fluctuations in the membrane potential. We were able to replicate our dynamic clamp results with respect to spike rates and spike precision for different patterns of background synaptic activity. We found only minor differences in the spike pattern generation between focal or distributed input in this cell type even when strong inhibitory or excitatory bursts were applied. However, the location dependence of dynamic clamp stimuli is likely to be different for each cell type examined, and the simulation approach developed in the present study will allow a careful assessment of location dependence in all cell types.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / cytology
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley