Potential for multiple mechanisms, phenomena and algorithms for synaptic plasticity at single synapses

Neuropharmacology. Apr-May 1998;37(4-5):489-500. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3908(98)00049-5.


Recent experimental evidence indicates that in the neocortex, the manner in which each synapse releases neurotransmitter in response to trains of presynaptic action potentials is potentially unique. These unique transmission characteristics arise because of a large heterogeneity in various synaptic properties that determine frequency dependence of transmission such as those governing the rates of synaptic depression and facilitation. A theoretical analysis was therefore undertaken to explore the phenomenologies of changes in the values of these synaptic parameters. The results illustrate how the change in any one of several synaptic parameters produces a distinctive effect on synaptic transmission and how these distinctive effects can point to the most likely biophysical mechanisms. These results could therefore be useful in studies of synaptic plasticity in order to obtain a full characterization of the phenomenologies of synaptic modifications and to isolate potential biophysical mechanisms. Based on this theoretical analysis and experimental data, it is proposed that there exists multiple mechanisms, phenomena and algorithms for synaptic plasticity at single synapses. Finally, it is shown that the impact of changing the values of synaptic parameters depends on the values of the other parameters. This may indicate that the various mechanisms, phenomena and algorithms are interlinked in a 'synaptic plasticity code'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Culture Techniques
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Cell Surface