Activity-Dependent Long-Term Depression of Electrical Synapses

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Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 389-393
DOI: 10.1126/science.1207502

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Use-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity have been extensively characterized at chemical synapses, but a relationship between natural activity and strength at electrical synapses remains elusive. The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), a brain area rich in gap-junctional (electrical) synapses, regulates cortical attention to the sensory surround and participates in shifts between arousal states; plasticity of electrical synapses may be a key mechanism underlying these processes. We observed long-term depression resulting from coordinated burst firing in pairs of coupled TRN neurons. Changes in gap-junctional communication were asymmetrical, indicating that regulation of connectivity depends on the direction of use. Modification of electrical synapses resulting from activity in coupled neurons is likely to be a widespread and powerful mechanism for dynamic reorganization of electrically coupled neuronal networks.

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