Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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BCCN AG-Seminar

Tuesday, 30.10.2007 17 c.t.

Dendritic Size and Branching Structure Influence Neuronal Burst Firing in Model Pyramidal Cells

by Prof. Dr. Arjen van Ooyen
from Department of Experimental Neurophysiology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Seminarraum Haus 2, 4. Stock (Bunsenstr.)


Neurons display a wide range of intrinsic firing patterns with respect to both spike frequency and spike pattern. A particularly relevant type of firing pattern for information processing is burst firing, the generation of clusters of spikes with short interspike intervals. Bursts can improve the signal-to-noise ratio of neuronal responses, may convey stimulus-related information, and can influence short- and long-term synaptic plasticity. Although ion channels play a pivotal role in the generation of bursts, dendritic morphology also appears to be a crucial factor. Given that burst firing can undergo significant changes in many pathological conditions, such as Alzheimer, chronic stress, and disorders associated with mental retardation, it is important to determine how alterations in neuronal morphology could affect burst firing. Here we use a biophysically realistic model of a pyramidal cell to study in a systematic way how dendritic morphology influences the cell's propensity for burst firing. We distinguish between the effects of dendritic branching structure and dendritic size, and use both somatic and dendritic stimulation. We show that both the total length of the apical dendritic tree and its topology markedly affect the degree of burst firing, and that these effects can be contributed to the influence of dendritic morphology on mean electronic path length. Our results can account for empirically observed changes in the firing state of pyramidal cells induced by pathological conditions such as chronic stress and epilepsy.

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