Dendritic Voltage Recordings Explain Paradoxical Synaptic Plasticity: A Modeling Study

Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2020 Nov 2;12:585539. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2020.585539. eCollection 2020.


Experiments have shown that the same stimulation pattern that causes Long-Term Potentiation in proximal synapses, will induce Long-Term Depression in distal ones. In order to understand these, and other, surprising observations we use a phenomenological model of Hebbian plasticity at the location of the synapse. Our model describes the Hebbian condition of joint activity of pre- and postsynaptic neurons in a compact form as the interaction of the glutamate trace left by a presynaptic spike with the time course of the postsynaptic voltage. Instead of simulating the voltage, we test the model using experimentally recorded dendritic voltage traces in hippocampus and neocortex. We find that the time course of the voltage in the neighborhood of a stimulated synapse is a reliable predictor of whether a stimulated synapse undergoes potentiation, depression, or no change. Our computational model can explain the existence of different -at first glance seemingly paradoxical- outcomes of synaptic potentiation and depression experiments depending on the dendritic location of the synapse and the frequency or timing of the stimulation.

Keywords: STDP; computational neuroscience; dendritic recordings; model; synaptic plasticity; voltage.