Electrical behaviour of dendritic spines as revealed by voltage imaging

Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 5:6:8436. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9436.


Thousands of dendritic spines on individual neurons process information and mediate plasticity by generating electrical input signals using a sophisticated assembly of transmitter receptors and voltage-sensitive ion channel molecules. Our understanding, however, of the electrical behaviour of spines is limited because it has not been possible to record input signals from these structures with adequate sensitivity and spatiotemporal resolution. Current interpretation of indirect data and speculations based on theoretical considerations are inconclusive. Here we use an electrochromic voltage-sensitive dye which acts as a transmembrane optical voltmeter with a linear scale to directly monitor electrical signals from individual spines on thin basal dendrites. The results show that synapses on these spines are not electrically isolated by the spine neck to a significant extent. Electrically, they behave as if they are located directly on dendrites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Optical Imaging
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging*