Plasticity of cortical responses in vivo involves activity-dependent changes at synapses, but the manner in which different forms of synaptic plasticity act together to create functional changes in neurons remains unknown. We found that spike timing-induced receptive field plasticity of visual cortex neurons in mice is anchored by increases in the synaptic strength of identified spines. This is accompanied by a decrease in the strength of adjacent spines on a slower time scale. The locally coordinated potentiation and depression of spines involves prominent AMPA receptor redistribution via targeted expression of the immediate early gene product Arc. Hebbian strengthening of activated synapses and heterosynaptic weakening of adjacent synapses thus cooperatively orchestrate cell-wide plasticity of functional neuronal responses.
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