It was recently shown that multiple excitatory inputs to CA1 pyramidal neuron dendrites must be activated nearly simultaneously to generate local dendritic spikes and supralinear responses at the soma; even slight input desynchronization prevented local spike initiation (Gasparini and Magee, 2006; Losonczy and Magee, 2006). This led to the conjecture that CA1 pyramidal neurons may only express their non-linear integrative capabilities during the highly synchronized sharp waves and ripples that occur during slow wave sleep and resting/consummatory behavior, whereas during active exploration and REM sleep (theta rhythm), inadequate synchronization of excitation would lead CA1 pyramidal cells to function as essentially linear devices. Using a detailed single neuron model, we replicated the experimentally observed synchronization effect for brief inputs mimicking single synaptic release events. When synapses were driven instead by double pulses, more representative of the bursty inputs that occur in vivo, we found that the tolerance for input desynchronization was increased by more than an order of magnitude. The effect depended mainly on paired-pulse facilitation of NMDA receptor-mediated responses at Schaffer collateral synapses. Our results suggest that CA1 pyramidal cells could function as non-linear integrative units in all major hippocampal states.
Keywords: CA1 pyramidal neuron; NMDA receptor; compartmental model; integration.