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Active Dendrites Enhance Neuronal Dynamic Range

AuthorsGollo, Leonardo L.; Kinouchi, O.; Copelli, Mauro
Issue Date12-Jun-2009
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPlos Computational Biology 5(6): e1000402 (2009)
AbstractSince the first experimental evidences of active conductances in dendrites, most neurons have been shown to exhibit dendritic excitability through the expression of a variety of voltage-gated ion channels. However, despite experimental and theoretical efforts undertaken in the past decades, the role of this excitability for some kind of dendritic computation has remained elusive. Here we show that, owing to very general properties of excitable media, the average output of a model of an active dendritic tree is a highly non-linear function of its afferent rate, attaining extremely large dynamic ranges (above 50 dB). Moreover, the model yields double-sigmoid response functions as experimentally observed in retinal ganglion cells. We claim that enhancement of dynamic range is the primary functional role of active dendritic conductances. We predict that neurons with larger dendritic trees should have larger dynamic range and that blocking of active conductances should lead to a decrease in dynamic range.
[Author Summary] Most neurons present cellular tree-like extensions known as dendrites, which receive input signals from synapses with other cells. Some neurons have very large and impressive dendritic arbors. What is the function of such elaborate and costly structures? The functional role of dendrites is not obvious because, if dendrites were an electrical passive medium, then signals from their periphery could not influence the neuron output activity. Dendrites, however, are not passive, but rather active media that amplify and support pulses (dendritic spikes). These voltage pulses do not simply add but can also annihilate each other when they collide. To understand the net effect of the complex interactions among dendritic spikes under massive synaptic input, here we examine a computational model of excitable dendritic trees. We show that, in contrast to passive trees, they have a very large dynamic range, which implies a greater capacity of the neuron to distinguish among the widely different intensities of input which it receives. Our results provide an explanation to the concentration invariance property observed in olfactory processing, due to the very similar response to different inputs. In addition, our modeling approach also suggests a microscopic neural basis for the century old psychophysical laws.
Description12 pages, 6 figures.
Publisher version (URL)http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1000402
Appears in Collections:(IFISC) Artículos
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