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Hippocampal Spine Head Sizes are Highly Precise

By Thomas M Bartol, Cailey Bromer, Justin Kinney, Michael A Chirillo, Jennifer N Bourne, Kristen M. Harris, Terrence J. Sejnowski

Posted 11 Mar 2015
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/016329 (published DOI: 10.7554/elife.10778)

Hippocampal synaptic activity is probabilistic and because synaptic plasticity depends on its history, the amount of information that can be stored at a synapse is limited. The strong correlation between the size and efficacy of a synapse allowed us to estimate the precision of synaptic plasticity. In an electron microscopic reconstruction of hippocampal neuropil we found single axons making two or more synaptic contacts onto the same dendrites which would have shared histories of presynaptic and postsynaptic activity. The postsynaptic spine heads, but not the spine necks, of these pairs were nearly identical in size. The precision is much greater than previous estimates and requires postsynaptic averaging over a time window many seconds to minutes in duration depending on the rate of input spikes and probability of release.

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