Deconvolution of Voltage Sensor Time Series and Electro-diffusion Modeling Reveal the Role of Spine Geometry in Controlling Synaptic Strength

Neuron. 2018 Mar 7;97(5):1126-1136.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.01.034. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Most synaptic excitatory connections are made on dendritic spines. But how the voltage in spines is modulated by its geometry remains unclear. To investigate the electrical properties of spines, we combine voltage imaging data with electro-diffusion modeling. We first present a temporal deconvolution procedure for the genetically encoded voltage sensor expressed in hippocampal cultured neurons and then use electro-diffusion theory to compute the electric field and the current-voltage conversion. We extract a range for the neck resistances of 〈R〉=100±35MΩ. When a significant current is injected in a spine, the neck resistance can be inversely proportional to its radius, but not to the radius square, as predicted by Ohm's law. We conclude that the postsynaptic voltage cannot only be modulated by changing the number of receptors, but also by the spine geometry. Thus, spine morphology could be a key component in determining synaptic transduction and plasticity.

Keywords: Electro-diffusion; deconvolution; dendritic spines; fluorescent signal; mathematical modeling; neck resistance; numerical simulations; synaptic current; voltage distribution.

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
  • Dendritic Spines / chemistry
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / chemistry
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Pyramidal Cells / chemistry
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / chemistry
  • Synapses / physiology*