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Dendritic morphology and synapse strengths

Neurons receive information from other neurons via hundreds of synapses widely distributed across their dendritic branches. Input signals from synapses propagate along the dendrites to the soma, where the neuron decides whether or not to fire an action potential. Signals that travel farther also attenuate more. Were all synapses equally strong, synapses far from the soma would have less influence on the decision to fire than synapses close by.

In hippocampal pyramidal neurons, however, distal synapses are stronger than proximal ones so that all synapses have an equal voice at the soma, a phenomenon called synaptic democracy. But how do synapses "know" how far they are from the soma and how can neurons use this information to create a synaptic democracy?

Using computational models of pyramidal neurons, we study, in collaboration with David Sterratt, what neuronal signals could be used by the cell to set up a synaptic democracy in a self-organising manner.



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