Hotspots of dendritic spine turnover facilitate clustered spine addition and learning and memory

Nat Commun. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):422. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02751-2.


Modeling studies suggest that clustered structural plasticity of dendritic spines is an efficient mechanism of information storage in cortical circuits. However, why new clustered spines occur in specific locations and how their formation relates to learning and memory (L&M) remain unclear. Using in vivo two-photon microscopy, we track spine dynamics in retrosplenial cortex before, during, and after two forms of episodic-like learning and find that spine turnover before learning predicts future L&M performance, as well as the localization and rates of spine clustering. Consistent with the idea that these measures are causally related, a genetic manipulation that enhances spine turnover also enhances both L&M and spine clustering. Biophysically inspired modeling suggests turnover increases clustering, network sparsity, and memory capacity. These results support a hotspot model where spine turnover is the driver for localization of clustered spine formation, which serves to modulate network function, thus influencing storage capacity and L&M.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Dendritic Spines / pathology
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Intravital Microscopy
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Spatial Memory / physiology*