Dendritic spines for neuroprotection: a hypothesis

Trends Neurosci. 1995 Nov;18(11):468-71. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(95)92765-i.


Ever since their first description in neurons, dendritic spines could be visualized only in fixed tissue, using high-power light and electron microscopy. Recent studies have been able to measure the free intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in dendritic spines of live neurons, and the results suggest that the spine is an independent cellular Ca2+ compartment. Other recent observations have indicated that the density of spines on dendrites changes in a dynamic fashion depending on ongoing neuronal activity. Together, these findings have led to the proposal that the dendritic spine is not only a storage device for long-term memory but perhaps a means for isolating the cell from the harmful consequences of synaptically evoked surges in [Ca2+]i. In other words, the dendritic spine is a neuroprotectant. This hypothesis has specific testable implications, including relating cell activity to spine density.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure


  • Calcium