Glutamate-bound NMDARs arising from in vivo-like network activity extend spatio-temporal integration in a L5 cortical pyramidal cell model

PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Apr 24;10(4):e1003590. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003590. eCollection 2014 Apr.


In vivo, cortical pyramidal cells are bombarded by asynchronous synaptic input arising from ongoing network activity. However, little is known about how such 'background' synaptic input interacts with nonlinear dendritic mechanisms. We have modified an existing model of a layer 5 (L5) pyramidal cell to explore how dendritic integration in the apical dendritic tuft could be altered by the levels of network activity observed in vivo. Here we show that asynchronous background excitatory input increases neuronal gain and extends both temporal and spatial integration of stimulus-evoked synaptic input onto the dendritic tuft. Addition of fast and slow inhibitory synaptic conductances, with properties similar to those from dendritic targeting interneurons, that provided a 'balanced' background configuration, partially counteracted these effects, suggesting that inhibition can tune spatio-temporal integration in the tuft. Excitatory background input lowered the threshold for NMDA receptor-mediated dendritic spikes, extended their duration and increased the probability of additional regenerative events occurring in neighbouring branches. These effects were also observed in a passive model where all the non-synaptic voltage-gated conductances were removed. Our results show that glutamate-bound NMDA receptors arising from ongoing network activity can provide a powerful spatially distributed nonlinear dendritic conductance. This may enable L5 pyramidal cells to change their integrative properties as a function of local network activity, potentially allowing both clustered and spatially distributed synaptic inputs to be integrated over extended timescales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid