Nature neuroscience

Nonlinear dendritic integration of electrical and chemical synaptic inputs drives fine-scale correlations.

PMID 25344631


Throughout the CNS, gap junction-mediated electrical signals synchronize neural activity on millisecond timescales via cooperative interactions with chemical synapses. However, gap junction-mediated synchrony has rarely been studied in the context of varying spatiotemporal patterns of electrical and chemical synaptic activity. Thus, the mechanism underlying fine-scale synchrony and its relationship to neural coding remain unclear. We examined spike synchrony in pairs of genetically identified, electrically coupled ganglion cells in mouse retina. We found that coincident electrical and chemical synaptic inputs, but not electrical inputs alone, elicited synchronized dendritic spikes in subregions of coupled dendritic trees. The resulting nonlinear integration produced fine-scale synchrony in the cells' spike output, specifically for light stimuli driving input to the regions of dendritic overlap. In addition, the strength of synchrony varied inversely with spike rate. Together, these features may allow synchronized activity to encode information about the spatial distribution of light that is ambiguous on the basis of spike rate alone.