Calcium-based plasticity model explains sensitivity of synaptic changes to spike pattern, rate, and dendritic location.

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Multiple stimulation protocols have been found to be effective in changing synaptic efficacy by inducing long-term potentiation or depression. In many of those protocols, increases in postsynaptic calcium concentration have been shown to play a crucial role. However, it is still unclear whether and how the dynamics of the postsynaptic calcium alone determine the outcome of synaptic plasticity. Here, we propose a calcium-based model of a synapse in which potentiation and depression are activated above calcium thresholds. We show that this model gives rise to a large diversity of spike timing-dependent plasticity curves, most of which have been observed experimentally in different systems. It accounts quantitatively for plasticity outcomes evoked by protocols involving patterns with variable spike timing and firing rate in hippocampus and neocortex. Furthermore, it allows us to predict that differences in plasticity outcomes in different studies are due to differences in parameters defining the calcium dynamics. The model provides a mechanistic understanding of how various stimulation protocols provoke specific synaptic changes through the dynamics of calcium concentration and thresholds implementing in simplified fashion protein signaling cascades, leading to long-term potentiation and long-term depression. The combination of biophysical realism and analytical tractability makes it the ideal candidate to study plasticity at the synapse, neuron, and network levels.





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Graupner, Michael, and Nicolas Brunel (2012). Calcium-based plasticity model explains sensitivity of synaptic changes to spike pattern, rate, and dendritic location. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(10). pp. 3991–3996. 10.1073/pnas.1109359109 Retrieved from

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Nicolas Brunel

Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience

We use theoretical models of brain systems to investigate how they process and learn information from their inputs. Our current work focuses on the mechanisms of learning and memory, from the synapse to the network level, in collaboration with various experimental groups. Using methods from
statistical physics, we have shown recently that the synaptic
connectivity of a network that maximizes storage capacity reproduces
two key experimentally observed features: low connection probability
and strong overrepresentation of bidirectionnally connected pairs of
neurons. We have also inferred `synaptic plasticity rules' (a
mathematical description of how synaptic strength depends on the
activity of pre and post-synaptic neurons) from data, and shown that
networks endowed with a plasticity rule inferred from data have a
storage capacity that is close to the optimal bound.

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