Locally coordinated synaptic plasticity of visual cortex neurons in vivo

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1349-1354
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0862

Rebalancing strength between synapses

Activation of a neuronal pathway is often associated with inhibition of surrounding pathways. How locally coordinated synaptic plasticity occurs in vivo is not known, nor is its role in shaping neuronal responses. El-Boustani et al. paired optogenetic stimulation of single neurons with a visual input and were able to shift the neuron's receptive field toward the target location. Spines that expressed structural long-term potentiation had receptive fields overlapping the target stimulus but were surrounded by spines that expressed receptive fields away from the target.

Science, this issue p. 1349


Plasticity of cortical responses in vivo involves activity-dependent changes at synapses, but the manner in which different forms of synaptic plasticity act together to create functional changes in neurons remains unknown. We found that spike timing–induced receptive field plasticity of visual cortex neurons in mice is anchored by increases in the synaptic strength of identified spines. This is accompanied by a decrease in the strength of adjacent spines on a slower time scale. The locally coordinated potentiation and depression of spines involves prominent AMPA receptor redistribution via targeted expression of the immediate early gene product Arc. Hebbian strengthening of activated synapses and heterosynaptic weakening of adjacent synapses thus cooperatively orchestrate cell-wide plasticity of functional neuronal responses.

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