Branch-specific dendritic Ca(2+) spikes cause persistent synaptic plasticity

Nature. 2015 Apr 9;520(7546):180-5. doi: 10.1038/nature14251. Epub 2015 Mar 30.


The brain has an extraordinary capacity for memory storage, but how it stores new information without disrupting previously acquired memories remains unknown. Here we show that different motor learning tasks induce dendritic Ca(2+) spikes on different apical tuft branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons in the mouse motor cortex. These task-related, branch-specific Ca(2+) spikes cause long-lasting potentiation of postsynaptic dendritic spines active at the time of spike generation. When somatostatin-expressing interneurons are inactivated, different motor tasks frequently induce Ca(2+) spikes on the same branches. On those branches, spines potentiated during one task are depotentiated when they are active seconds before Ca(2+) spikes induced by another task. Concomitantly, increased neuronal activity and performance improvement after learning one task are disrupted when another task is learned. These findings indicate that dendritic-branch-specific generation of Ca(2+) spikes is crucial for establishing long-lasting synaptic plasticity, thereby facilitating information storage associated with different learning experiences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Dendrites / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Calcium