Spontaneous postsynaptic currents (PSCs) provide key information about the mechanisms of synaptic transmission and the activity modes of neuronal networks. However, detecting spontaneous PSCs in vitro and in vivo has been challenging, because of the small amplitude, the variable kinetics, and the undefined time of generation of these events. Here, we describe a, to our knowledge, new method for detecting spontaneous synaptic events by deconvolution, using a template that approximates the average time course of spontaneous PSCs. A recorded PSC trace is deconvolved from the template, resulting in a series of delta-like functions. The maxima of these delta-like events are reliably detected, revealing the precise onset times of the spontaneous PSCs. Among all detection methods, the deconvolution-based method has a unique temporal resolution, allowing the detection of individual events in high-frequency bursts. Furthermore, the deconvolution-based method has a high amplitude resolution, because deconvolution can substantially increase the signal/noise ratio. When tested against previously published methods using experimental data, the deconvolution-based method was superior for spontaneous PSCs recorded in vivo. Using the high-resolution deconvolution-based detection algorithm, we show that the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents in dentate gyrus granule cells is 4.5 times higher in vivo than in vitro.
Copyright © 2012 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.