Active dendrites support efficient initiation of dendritic spikes in hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Mar 4;15(4):600-6. doi: 10.1038/nn.3060.


CA3 pyramidal neurons are important for memory formation and pattern completion in the hippocampal network. It is generally thought that proximal synapses from the mossy fibers activate these neurons most efficiently, whereas distal inputs from the perforant path have a weaker modulatory influence. We used confocally targeted patch-clamp recording from dendrites and axons to map the activation of rat CA3 pyramidal neurons at the subcellular level. Our results reveal two distinct dendritic domains. In the proximal domain, action potentials initiated in the axon backpropagate actively with large amplitude and fast time course. In the distal domain, Na(+) channel-mediated dendritic spikes are efficiently initiated by waveforms mimicking synaptic events. CA3 pyramidal neuron dendrites showed a high Na(+)-to-K(+) conductance density ratio, providing ideal conditions for active backpropagation and dendritic spike initiation. Dendritic spikes may enhance the computational power of CA3 pyramidal neurons in the hippocampal network.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / cytology*
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar