Influence of dendritic structure on firing pattern in model neocortical neurons

Nature. 1996 Jul 25;382(6589):363-6. doi: 10.1038/382363a0.


Neocortical neurons display a wide range of dendritic morphologies, ranging from compact arborizations to highly elaborate branching patterns. In vitro electrical recordings from these neurons have revealed a correspondingly diverse range of intrinsic firing patterns, including non-adapting, adapting and bursting types. This heterogeneity of electrical responsivity has generally been attributed to variability in the types and densities of ionic channels. We show here, using compartmental models of reconstructed cortical neurons, that an entire spectrum of firing patterns can be reproduced in a set of neurons that share a common distribution of ion channels and differ only in their dendritic geometry. The essential behaviour of the model depends on partial electrical coupling of fast active conductances localized to the soma and axon and slow active currents located throughout the dendrites, and can be reproduced in a two-compartment model. The results suggest a causal relationship for the observed correlations between dendritic structure and firing properties and emphasize the importance of active dendritic conductances in neuronal function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism


  • Calcium Channels
  • Potassium Channels