The NMDA spike is a long-lasting nonlinear phenomenon initiated locally in the dendritic branches of a variety of cortical neurons. It plays a key role in synaptic plasticity and in single-neuron computations. Combining dynamic system theory and computational approaches, we now explore how the timing of synaptic inhibition affects the NMDA spike and its associated membrane current. When impinging on its early phase, individual inhibitory synapses strongly, but transiently, dampen the NMDA spike; later inhibition prematurely terminates it. A single inhibitory synapse reduces the NMDA-mediated Ca2+ current, a key player in plasticity, by up to 45%. NMDA spikes in distal dendritic branches/spines are longer-lasting and more resilient to inhibition, enhancing synaptic plasticity at these branches. We conclude that NMDA spikes are highly sensitive to dendritic inhibition; sparse weak inhibition can finely tune synaptic plasticity both locally at the dendritic branch level and globally at the level of the neuron’s output.
Year of publication
Cell Reports 21, 1550-1561