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1.  A rapid form of activity-dependent recovery from short-term synaptic depression in the intensity pathway of the auditory brainstem 
Biological Cybernetics  2011;104(3):209-223.
Short-term synaptic plasticity acts as a time- and firing rate-dependent filter that mediates the transmission of information across synapses. In the avian auditory brainstem, specific forms of plasticity are expressed at different terminals of the same auditory nerve fibers and contribute to the divergence of acoustic timing and intensity information. To identify key differences in the plasticity properties, we made patch-clamp recordings from neurons in the cochlear nucleus responsible for intensity coding, nucleus angularis, and measured the time course of the recovery of excitatory postsynaptic currents following short-term synaptic depression. These synaptic responses showed a very rapid recovery, following a bi-exponential time course with a fast time constant of ~40 ms and a dependence on the presynaptic activity levels, resulting in a crossing over of the recovery trajectories following high-rate versus low-rate stimulation trains. We also show that the recorded recovery in the intensity pathway differs from similar recordings in the timing pathway, specifically the cochlear nucleus magnocellularis, in two ways: (1) a fast recovery that was not due to recovery from postsynaptic receptor desensitization and (2) a recovery trajectory that was characterized by a non-monotonic bump that may be due in part to facilitation mechanisms more prevalent in the intensity pathway. We tested whether a previously proposed model of synaptic transmission based on vesicle depletion and sequential steps of vesicle replenishment could account for the recovery responses, and found it was insufficient, suggesting an activity-dependent feedback mechanism is present. We propose that the rapid recovery following depression allows improved coding of natural auditory signals that often consist of sound bursts separated by short gaps.
doi:10.1007/s00422-011-0428-8
PMCID: PMC3257163  PMID: 21409439
Auditory nerve; Cochlear nucleus; Angularis; Magnocellularis; Short-term depression; Short-term facilitation; Vesicle cycling
2.  Short-term synaptic plasticity and intensity coding 
Hearing research  2011;279(1-2):13-21.
Alterations in synaptic strength over short time scales, termed short-term synaptic plasticity, can gate the flow of information through neural circuits. Different information can be extracted from the same presynaptic spike train depending on the activity- and time-dependent properties of the plasticity at a given synapse. The parallel processing in the brain stem auditory pathways provides an excellent model system for investigating the functional implications of short-term plasticity in neural coding. We review recent evidence that short-term plasticity differs in different pathways with a special emphasis on the ‘intensity’ pathway. While short-term depression dominates the ‘timing’ pathway, the intensity pathway is characterized by a balance of short-term depression and facilitation that allows linear transmission of rate-coded intensity information. Target-specific regulation of presynaptic plasticity mechanisms underlies the differential expression of depression and facilitation. The potential contribution of short-term plasticity to different aspects of ‘intensity’-related information processing, such as interaural level/intensity difference coding, amplitude modulation coding, and intensity-dependent gain control coding, is discussed.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2011.03.001
PMCID: PMC3210195  PMID: 21397676
3.  The Multiple Functions of T Stellate/Multipolar/Chopper Cells in the Ventral Cochlear Nucleus 
Hearing research  2010;276(1-2):61-69.
Acoustic information is brought to the brain by auditory nerve fibers, all of which terminate in the cochlear nuclei, and is passed up the auditory pathway through the principal cells of the cochlear nuclei. A population of neurons variously known as T stellate, type I multipolar, planar multipolar, or chopper cells forms one of the major ascending auditory pathways through the brain stem. T Stellate cells are sharply tuned; as a population they encode the spectrum of sounds. In these neurons, phasic excitation from the auditory nerve is made more tonic by feed forward excitation, coactivation of inhibitory with excitatory inputs, relatively large excitatory currents through NMDA receptors, and relatively little synaptic depression. The mechanisms that make firing tonic also obscure the fine structure of sounds that is represented in the excitatory inputs from the auditory nerve and account for the characteristic chopping response patterns with which T stellate cells respond to tones. In contrast with other principal cells of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN), T stellate cells lack a low-voltage-activated potassium conductance and are therefore sensitive to small, steady, neuromodulating currents. The presence of cholinergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic receptors allows the excitability of these cells to be modulated by medial olivocochlear efferent neurons and by neuronal circuits associated with arousal. T Stellate cells deliver acoustic information to the ipsilateral dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body (VNTB), periolivary regions around the lateral superior olivary nucleus (LSO), and to the contralateral ventral lemniscal nuclei (VNLL) and inferior colliculus (IC). It is likely that T stellate cells participate in feedback loops through both medial and lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons and they may be a source of ipsilateral excitation of the LSO.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2010.10.018
PMCID: PMC3078527  PMID: 21056098
ventral cochlear nucleus; brainstem auditory pathways; ion channels; patch-clamp recording
4.  The localization and physiological effects of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) in the brain stem auditory system of the chick 
Neuroscience  2011;194C:150-159.
Fast, temporally-precise, and consistent synaptic transmission is required to encode features of acoustic stimuli. Neurons of nucleus magnocellularis (NM) in the auditory brain stem of the chick possess numerous adaptations to optimize the coding of temporal information. One potential problem for the system is the depression of synaptic transmission during a prolonged stimulus. The present studies tested the hypothesis that cannabinoid receptor one (CB1) signaling may limit synaptic depression at the auditory nerve-NM synapse. In situ hybridization was used to confirm that CB1 mRNA is expressed in the cochlear ganglion; immunohistochemistry was used to confirm the presence of CB1 protein in NM. These findings are consistent with the common presynaptic locus of CB1 in the brain. Rate-dependent synaptic depression was then examined in a brain slice preparation before and after administration of WIN 55,212-2 (WIN), a potent CB1 agonist. WIN decreased the amplitude of excitatory postsynaptic currents and also reduced depression across a train of stimuli. The effect was most obvious late in the pulse train and during high rates of stimulation. This CB1-mediated influence could allow for lower, but more consistent activation of NM neurons, which could be of importance for optimizing the coding of prolonged, temporally-locked acoustic stimuli.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.05.061
PMCID: PMC3182287  PMID: 21703331
cochlear nucleus; synaptic depression; nucleus magnocellularis; brain slice; WIN 55,212-2; calyx
5.  Interactions between behaviorally relevant rhythms and synaptic plasticity alter coding in the piriform cortex 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(18):6092-6104.
Understanding how neural and behavioral timescales interact to influence cortical activity and stimulus coding is an important issue in sensory neuroscience. In air-breathing animals, voluntary changes in respiratory frequency alter the temporal patterning olfactory input. In the olfactory bulb, these behavioral timescales are reflected in the temporal properties of mitral/tufted (M/T) cell spike trains. As the odor information contained in these spike trains is relayed from the bulb to the cortex, interactions between presynaptic spike timing and short-term synaptic plasticity dictate how stimulus features are represented in cortical spike trains. Here we demonstrate how the timescales associated with respiratory frequency, spike timing and short-term synaptic plasticity interact to shape cortical responses. Specifically, we quantified the timescales of short-term synaptic facilitation and depression at excitatory synapses between bulbar M/T cells and cortical neurons in slices of mouse olfactory cortex. We then used these results to generate simulated M/T population synaptic currents that were injected into real cortical neurons. M/T population inputs were modulated at frequencies consistent with passive respiration or active sniffing. We show how the differential recruitment of short-term plasticity at breathing versus sniffing frequencies alters cortical spike responses. For inputs at sniffing frequencies, cortical neurons linearly encoded increases in presynaptic firing rates with increased phase locked, firing rates. In contrast, at passive breathing frequencies, cortical responses saturated with changes in presynaptic rate. Our results suggest that changes in respiratory behavior can gate the transfer of stimulus information between the olfactory bulb and cortex.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6285-11.2012
PMCID: PMC3363286  PMID: 22553016
6.  Presynaptic development at L4 to L2/3 excitatory synapses follows different time courses in visual and somatosensory cortex 
Visual and somatosensory cortices exhibit profound experience-dependent plasticity during development and adulthood and are common model systems for probing the synaptic and molecular mechanisms of plasticity. However, comparisons between the two areas may be confounded by a lack of accurate information on their relative rates of development. In this study, we used whole cell recording in acute brain slices to study synaptic development in mouse barrel and visual cortex. We found that short-term plasticity (STP) switched from strong depression at postnatal day 12 (P12), to weaker depression and facilitation in mature cortex. However, presynaptic maturation was delayed by about two weeks at layer 4 (L4) to L2/3 excitatory synapses in visual cortex relative to barrel cortex. This developmental delay was pathway-specific: maturation of L2/3 to L2/3 synapses occurred over similar timescales in barrel and visual cortex. The developmental increase in the paired-pulse ratio (PPR) to values greater than unity was mirrored by a developmental decrease in presynaptic release probability. Therefore, L4 to L2/3 excitatory synapses had lower release probabilities and showed greater short-term facilitation in barrel cortex than in visual cortex at P28. Postsynaptic mechanisms could not account for the delayed maturation of STP in visual cortex. These findings indicate that synaptic development is delayed in the L4 to L2/3 pathway in visual cortex, and emphasise the need to take into account the changes in synaptic properties that occur during development when comparing plasticity mechanisms in different cortical areas.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2544-10.2010
PMCID: PMC2962420  PMID: 20861362
mouse; barrel cortex; release probability; short-term plasticity; experience-dependent plasticity; postsynaptic
7.  Emergence of coordinated plasticity in the cochlear nucleus and cerebellum 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(23):7862-7868.
Synapses formed by one cell type onto another cell type tend to show characteristic short-term plasticity, which varies from facilitating to depressing depending on the particular system. Within a population of synapses, plasticity can also be variable, and it is unknown how this plasticity is determined on a cell-by-cell level. We have investigated this in the mouse cochlear nucleus, where auditory nerve (AN) fibers contact bushy cells (BCs) at synapses called “endbulbs of Held”. Synapses formed by different AN fibers onto one BC had plasticity that was more similar than would be expected at random. Experiments using MK-801 indicated that this resulted in part from similarity in the presynaptic probability of release. This similarity was not present in immature synapses, but emerged after the onset of hearing. In addition, this phenomenon also occurred at excitatory synapses in the cerebellum. This indicates that postsynaptic cells coordinate the plasticity of their inputs, which suggests that plasticity is of fundamental importance to synaptic function.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0167-12.2012
PMCID: PMC3378049  PMID: 22674262
8.  Stochastic Properties of Neurotransmitter Release Expand the Dynamic Range of Synapses 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(36):14406-14416.
Release of neurotransmitter is an inherently random process, which could degrade the reliability of postsynaptic spiking, even at relatively large synapses. This is particularly important at auditory synapses, where the rate and precise timing of spikes carry information about sounds. However, the functional consequences of the stochastic properties of release are unknown. We addressed this issue at the mouse endbulb of Held synapse, which is formed by auditory nerve fibers onto bushy cells (BCs) in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus. We used voltage clamp to characterize synaptic variability. Dynamic clamp was used to compare BC spiking with stochastic or deterministic synaptic input. The stochastic component increased the responsiveness of the BC to conductances that were on average subthreshold, thereby increasing the dynamic range of the synapse. This had the benefit that BCs relayed auditory nerve activity even when synapses showed significant depression during rapid activity. However, the precision of spike timing decreased with stochastic conductances, suggesting a trade-off between encoding information in spike timing versus probability. These effects were confirmed in fiber stimulation experiments, indicating that they are physiologically relevant, and that synaptic randomness, dynamic range, and jitter are causally related.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2487-13.2013
PMCID: PMC3761050  PMID: 24005293
9.  Bidirectional plasticity gated by hyperpolarization controls the gain of postsynaptic firing responses at central vestibular nerve synapses 
Neuron  2010;68(4):763-775.
Summary
Linking synaptic plasticity with behavioral learning requires understanding how synaptic efficacy influences postsynaptic firing in neurons whose role in behavior is understood. Here we examine plasticity at a candidate site of motor learning: vestibular nerve synapses onto neurons that mediate reflexive movements. Pairing nerve activity with changes in postsynaptic voltage induced bidirectional synaptic plasticity in vestibular nucleus projection neurons: long-term potentiation relied on calcium-permeable AMPA receptors and postsynaptic hyperpolarization, while long-term depression relied on NMDA receptors and postsynaptic depolarization. Remarkably, both forms of plasticity uniformly scaled synaptic currents evoked by pulse trains, and these changes in synaptic efficacy were translated into linear increases or decreases in postsynaptic firing responses. Synapses onto local inhibitory neurons were also plastic but expressed only long-term depression. Bidirectional, linear gain control of vestibular nerve synapses onto projection neurons provides a plausible mechanism for motor learning underlying adaptation of vestibular reflexes.
doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.025
PMCID: PMC3189222  PMID: 21092864
10.  Persistent Posttetanic Depression at Cerebellar Parallel Fiber to Purkinje Cell Synapses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70277.
Plasticity at the cerebellar parallel fiber to Purkinje cell synapse may underlie information processing and motor learning. In vivo, parallel fibers appear to fire in short high frequency bursts likely to activate sparsely distributed synapses over the Purkinje cell dendritic tree. Here, we report that short parallel fiber tetanic stimulation evokes a ∼7–15% depression which develops over 2 min and lasts for at least 20 min. In contrast to the concomitantly evoked short-term endocannabinoid-mediated depression, this persistent posttetanic depression (PTD) does not exhibit a dependency on the spatial pattern of synapse activation and is not caused by any detectable change in presynaptic calcium signaling. This persistent PTD is however associated with increased paired-pulse facilitation and coefficient of variation of synaptic responses, suggesting that its expression is presynaptic. The chelation of postsynaptic calcium prevents its induction, suggesting that post- to presynaptic (retrograde) signaling is required. We rule out endocannabinoid signaling since the inhibition of type 1 cannabinoid receptors, monoacylglycerol lipase or vanilloid receptor 1, or incubation with anandamide had no detectable effect. The persistent PTD is maximal in pre-adolescent mice, abolished by adrenergic and dopaminergic receptors block, but unaffected by adrenergic and dopaminergic agonists. Our data unveils a novel form of plasticity at parallel fiber synapses: a persistent PTD induced by physiologically relevant input patterns, age-dependent, and strongly modulated by the monoaminergic system. We further provide evidence supporting that the plasticity mechanism involves retrograde signaling and presynaptic diacylglycerol.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070277
PMCID: PMC3726549  PMID: 23922966
11.  A Tale of Two Stories: Astrocyte Regulation of Synaptic Depression and Facilitation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(12):e1002293.
Short-term presynaptic plasticity designates variations of the amplitude of synaptic information transfer whereby the amount of neurotransmitter released upon presynaptic stimulation changes over seconds as a function of the neuronal firing activity. While a consensus has emerged that the resulting decrease (depression) and/or increase (facilitation) of the synapse strength are crucial to neuronal computations, their modes of expression in vivo remain unclear. Recent experimental studies have reported that glial cells, particularly astrocytes in the hippocampus, are able to modulate short-term plasticity but the mechanism of such a modulation is poorly understood. Here, we investigate the characteristics of short-term plasticity modulation by astrocytes using a biophysically realistic computational model. Mean-field analysis of the model, supported by intensive numerical simulations, unravels that astrocytes may mediate counterintuitive effects. Depending on the expressed presynaptic signaling pathways, astrocytes may globally inhibit or potentiate the synapse: the amount of released neurotransmitter in the presence of the astrocyte is transiently smaller or larger than in its absence. But this global effect usually coexists with the opposite local effect on paired pulses: with release-decreasing astrocytes most paired pulses become facilitated, namely the amount of neurotransmitter released upon spike i+1 is larger than that at spike i, while paired-pulse depression becomes prominent under release-increasing astrocytes. Moreover, we show that the frequency of astrocytic intracellular Ca2+ oscillations controls the effects of the astrocyte on short-term synaptic plasticity. Our model explains several experimental observations yet unsolved, and uncovers astrocytic gliotransmission as a possible transient switch between short-term paired-pulse depression and facilitation. This possibility has deep implications on the processing of neuronal spikes and resulting information transfer at synapses.
Author Summary
Synaptic plasticity is the capacity of a preexisting connection between two neurons to change in strength as a function of neuronal activity. Because it admittedly underlies learning and memory, the elucidation of its constituting mechanisms is of crucial importance in many aspects of normal and pathological brain function. Short-term presynaptic plasticity refers to changes occurring over short time scales (milliseconds to seconds) that are mediated by frequency-dependent modifications of the amount of neurotransmitter released by presynaptic stimulation. Recent experiments have reported that glial cells, especially hippocampal astrocytes, can modulate short-term plasticity, but the mechanism of such modulation is poorly understood. Here, we explore a plausible form of modulation of short-term plasticity by astrocytes using a biophysically realistic computational model. Our analysis indicates that astrocytes could simultaneously affect synaptic release in two ways. First, they either decrease or increase the overall synaptic release of neurotransmitter. Second, for stimuli that are delivered as pairs within short intervals, they systematically increase or decrease the synaptic response to the second one. Hence, our model suggests that astrocytes could transiently trigger switches between paired-pulse depression and facilitation. This property explains several challenging experimental observations and has a deep impact on our understanding of synaptic information transfer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002293
PMCID: PMC3228793  PMID: 22162957
12.  Relative roles of different mechanisms of depression at the mouse endbulb of Held 
Journal of neurophysiology  2008;99(5):2510-2521.
Several mechanisms can underlie short-term synaptic depression, including vesicle depletion, receptor desensitization, and changes in presynaptic release probability. To determine which mechanisms affect depression under physiological conditions, we studied the synapse formed by auditory nerve fibers onto bushy cells in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (the “endbulb of Held”) using voltage-clamp recordings of brain slices from P15–21 mice near physiological temperatures. Depression of both AMPA and NMDA EPSCs showed two phases of recovery. The fast component of depression for the AMPA EPSC was eliminated by cyclothiazide and aniracetam, suggesting it results from desensitization. The fast component of depression for the NMDA EPSC was reduced by the low-affinity antagonist L-AP5, suggesting it results from saturation. The remaining depression in AMPA and NMDA components is identical and therefore presynaptic in origin. It is likely to result from presynaptic vesicle depletion. Recovery from depression after trains of activity was slowed by the application of EGTA-AM, suggesting that the endbulb has a residual-calcium-dependent form of recovery. We developed a model that incorporates depletion, desensitization, and calcium-dependent recovery. This model replicated experimental findings over a range of experimental conditions. The model further indicated that desensitization plays only a minor role during prolonged activity, in large part because presynaptic release is so depleted. Thus, depletion appears to be the dominant mechanism of depression at the endbulb during normal activity. Furthermore, calcium-dependent recovery at the endbulb is critical to prevent complete run-down during high activity and to preserve the reliability of information transmission.
doi:10.1152/jn.01293.2007
PMCID: PMC2905879  PMID: 18367696
Synapse; Depression; Saturation; Desensitization; Endbulb; Modeling
13.  Dynamic Spike Thresholds during Synaptic Integration Preserve and Enhance Temporal Response Properties in the Avian Cochlear Nucleus 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12063-12074.
Neurons of the cochlear nuclei are anatomically and physiologically specialized to optimally encode temporal and spectral information about sound stimuli, in part for binaural auditory processing. The avian cochlear nucleus magnocellularis (NM) integrates excitatory eighth nerve inputs and depolarizing GABAergic inhibition such that temporal fidelity is enhanced across the synapse. The biophysical mechanisms of this depolarizing inhibition, and its role in temporal processing, are not fully understood. We used whole-cell electro-physiology and computational modeling to examine how subthreshold excitatory inputs are integrated and how depolarizing IPSPs affect spike thresholds and synaptic integration by chick NM neurons. We found that both depolarizing inhibition and subthreshold excitatory inputs cause voltage threshold accommodation, nonlinear temporal summation, and shunting. Inhibition caused such large changes in threshold that subthreshold excitatory inputs were followed by a refractory period. We hypothesize that these large shifts in threshold eliminate spikes to asynchronous inputs, providing a mechanism for the enhanced temporal fidelity seen across the eighth nerve/cochlear nucleus synapse. Thus, depolarizing inhibition and threshold shifting hone the temporal response properties of this system so as to enhance the temporal fidelity that is essential for auditory perception.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1840-10.2010
PMCID: PMC3390778  PMID: 20826669
14.  Mechanisms Underlying Input-Specific Expression of Endocannabinoid-Mediated Synaptic Plasticity in the Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus 
Hearing research  2011;279(1-2):67-73.
A hallmark of brain organization is the integration of primary and modulatory pathways by principal neurons. Primary sensory inputs are usually not plastic, while modulatory inputs converging to the same principal neuron can be plastic. However, the mechanisms determining this input specific expression of synaptic plasticity remain unknown. We investigated this problem in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), where principal cells integrate primary auditory nerve input with plastic, parallel fiber input. Our previous DCN studies have shown that parallel fiber inputs exhibit short- and long-term plasticities mediated by endocannabinoid signaling. Here we show that auditory nerve inputs to principal cells do not show short- or long-term endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic plasticity. Electrophysiological and electron microscopy studies indicate that input specificity arises from selective expression of presynaptic cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in parallel fiber terminals, but not in auditory nerve terminals. However, pairing of parallel fiber activity with auditory nerve activity elicits plasticity in parallel fiber inputs, thus suggesting a role for synaptic plasticity in multisensory integration.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2011.03.007
PMCID: PMC3157579  PMID: 21426926
endocannabinoids; dorsal cochlear nucleus; plasticity; electron microscopy; electrophysiology
15.  Cholinergic modulation of local pyramid-interneuron synapses exhibiting divergent short-term dynamics in rat sensory cortex 
Brain research  2008;1215:97-104.
Acetylcholine (ACh) influences attention, short-term memory, and sleep/waking transitions, through its modulatory influence on cortical neurons. It has been proposed that behavioral state changes mediated by ACh result from its selective effects on the intrinsic membrane properties of diverse cortical inhibitory interneuron classes. ACh has been widely shown to reduce the strength of excitatory (glutamatergic) synapses. But past studies using extracellular stimulation have not been able to examine the effects of ACh on local cortical connections important for shaping sensory processing, Here, using dual intracellular recording in slices of rat somatosensory cortex, we show that reduction of local excitatory input to inhibitory neurons by ACh is coupled to differences in the underlying short-term synaptic plasticity (STP). In synapses with short-term depression, where successive evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs; >5 Hz) usually diminish in strength (short-term depression), cholinergic agonist (5–10 μM carbachol (CCh)) reduced the amplitude of the first EPSP in an evoked train, but CCh's net effect on subsequent EPSPs rapidly diminished. In synapses where successive EPSPs increased in strength (facilitation), the effect of CCh on later EPSPs in an evoked train became progressively greater. The effect of CCh on both depressing and facilitating synapses was blocked by the muscarinic antagonist, 1–5 μM atropine. It is suggested that selective influence on STP contributes fundamentally to cholinergic ″ switching ″ between cortical rhythms that underlie different behavioral states.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.03.067
PMCID: PMC2483424  PMID: 18482715
acetylcholine; muscarinic; interneuron; short-term plasticity
16.  Temporal Coding by Cochlear Nucleus Bushy Cells in DBA/2J Mice with Early Onset Hearing Loss 
The bushy cells of the anterior ventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) preserve or improve the temporal coding of sound information arriving from auditory nerve fibers (ANF). The critical cellular mechanisms entailed in this process include the specialized nerve terminals, the endbulbs of Held, and the membrane conductance configuration of the bushy cell. In one strain of mice (DBA/2J), an early-onset hearing loss can cause a reduction in neurotransmitter release probability, and a smaller and slower spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) at the endbulb synapse. In the present study, by using a brain slice preparation, we tested the hypothesis that these changes in synaptic transmission would degrade the transmission of timing information from the ANF to the AVCN bushy neuron. We show that the electrical excitability of bushy cells in hearing-impaired old DBA mice was different from that in young, normal-hearing DBA mice. We found an increase in the action potential (AP) firing threshold with current injection; a larger AP afterhyperpolarization; and an increase in the number of spikes produced by large depolarizing currents. We also tested the temporal precision of bushy cell responses to high-frequency stimulation of the ANF. The standard deviation of spikes (spike jitter) produced by ANF-evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) was largely unaffected in old DBA mice. However, spike entrainment during a 100-Hz volley of EPSPs was significantly reduced. This was not a limitation of the ability of bushy cells to fire APs at this stimulus frequency, because entrainment to trains of current pulses was unaffected. Moreover, the decrease in entrainment is not attributable to increased synaptic depression. Surprisingly, the spike latency was 0.46 ms shorter in old DBA mice, and was apparently attributable to a faster conduction velocity, since the evoked excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) latency was shorter in old DBA mice as well. We also tested the contribution of the low-voltage-activated K+ conductance (gKLV) on the spike latency by using dynamic clamp. Alteration in gKLV had little effect on the spike latency. To test whether these changes in DBA mice were simply a result of continued postnatal maturation, we repeated the experiments in CBA mice, a strain that shows normal hearing thresholds through this age range. CBA mice exhibited no reduction in entrainment or increased spike jitter with age. We conclude that the ability of AVCN bushy neurons to reliably follow ANF EPSPs is compromised in a frequency-dependent fashion in hearing-impaired mice. This effect can be best explained by an increase in spike threshold.
doi:10.1007/s10162-006-0052-9
PMCID: PMC1785302  PMID: 17066341
auditory; spike reliability; entrainment; deafness; endbulb of Held
17.  Temporal Coding by Cochlear Nucleus Bushy Cells in DBA/2J Mice with Early Onset Hearing Loss 
The bushy cells of the anterior ventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) preserve or improve the temporal coding of sound information arriving from auditory nerve fibers (ANF). The critical cellular mechanisms entailed in this process include the specialized nerve terminals, the endbulbs of Held, and the membrane conductance configuration of the bushy cell. In one strain of mice (DBA/2J), an early-onset hearing loss can cause a reduction in neurotransmitter release probability, and a smaller and slower spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) at the endbulb synapse. In the present study, by using a brain slice preparation, we tested the hypothesis that these changes in synaptic transmission would degrade the transmission of timing information from the ANF to the AVCN bushy neuron. We show that the electrical excitability of bushy cells in hearing-impaired old DBA mice was different from that in young, normal-hearing DBA mice. We found an increase in the action potential (AP) firing threshold with current injection; a larger AP afterhyperpolarization; and an increase in the number of spikes produced by large depolarizing currents. We also tested the temporal precision of bushy cell responses to high-frequency stimulation of the ANF. The standard deviation of spikes (spike jitter) produced by ANF-evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) was largely unaffected in old DBA mice. However, spike entrainment during a 100-Hz volley of EPSPs was significantly reduced. This was not a limitation of the ability of bushy cells to fire APs at this stimulus frequency, because entrainment to trains of current pulses was unaffected. Moreover, the decrease in entrainment is not attributable to increased synaptic depression. Surprisingly, the spike latency was 0.46 ms shorter in old DBA mice, and was apparently attributable to a faster conduction velocity, since the evoked excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) latency was shorter in old DBA mice as well. We also tested the contribution of the low-voltage-activated K+ conductance (gKLV) on the spike latency by using dynamic clamp. Alteration in gKLV had little effect on the spike latency. To test whether these changes in DBA mice were simply a result of continued postnatal maturation, we repeated the experiments in CBA mice, a strain that shows normal hearing thresholds through this age range. CBA mice exhibited no reduction in entrainment or increased spike jitter with age. We conclude that the ability of AVCN bushy neurons to reliably follow ANF EPSPs is compromised in a frequency-dependent fashion in hearing-impaired mice. This effect can be best explained by an increase in spike threshold.
doi:10.1007/s10162-006-0052-9
PMCID: PMC1785302  PMID: 17066341
auditory; spike reliability; entrainment; deafness; endbulb of Held
18.  CA1 Pyramidal Cell Theta-Burst Firing Triggers Endocannabinoid-Mediated Long-Term Depression at Both Somatic and Dendritic Inhibitory Synapses 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(34):13743-13757.
Endocannabinoids (eCBs) are retrograde lipid messengers that, by targeting presynaptic type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs), mediate short- and long-term synaptic depression of neurotransmitter release throughout the brain. Short-term depression is typically triggered by postsynaptic, depolarization-induced calcium rises, whereas long-term depression is induced by synaptic activation of Gq/11 protein-coupled receptors. Here we report that a physiologically relevant pattern of postsynaptic activity, in the form of theta-burst firing (TBF) of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, can trigger long-term depression of inhibitory transmission (iLTD) in rat hippocampal slices. Paired recordings between CA1 interneurons and pyramidal cells, followed by post hoc morphological reconstructions of the interneurons' axon, revealed that somatic and dendritic inhibitory synaptic inputs equally expressed TBF-induced iLTD. Simultaneous recordings from neighboring pyramidal cells demonstrated that eCB signaling triggered by TBF was highly restricted to only a single, active cell. Furthermore, pairing submaximal endogenous activation of metabotropic glutamate or muscarinic acetylcholine receptors with submaximal TBF unmasked associative iLTD. Although CB1Rs are also expressed at Schaffer-collateral excitatory terminals, long-term plasticity under various recording conditions was spared at these synapses. Consistent with this observation, TBF also shifted the balance of excitation and inhibition in favor of excitatory throughput, thereby altering information flow through the CA1 circuit. Given the near ubiquity of burst-firing activity patterns and CB1R expression in the brain, the properties described here may be a general means by which neurons fine tune the strength of their inputs in a cell-wide and cell-specific manner.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0817-13.2013
PMCID: PMC3755719  PMID: 23966696
19.  GABAergic inhibition sharpens the frequency tuning and enhances phase locking in chicken nucleus magnocellularis neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12075-12083.
GABAergic modulation of activity in avian cochlear nucleus neurons has been studied extensively in vitro. However, how this modulation actually influences processing in vivo is not known. We investigated responses of chicken nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons to sound while pharmacologically manipulating the inhibitory input from the superior olivary nucleus (SON). SON receives excitatory inputs from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL), and provides GABAergic inputs to NM, NA, NL, and putatively to the contralateral SON. Results from single unit extracellular recordings from 2–4 wks posthatch chickens show that firing rates of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) increased monotonically with sound intensity, while that of NM neurons saturated or even decreased at moderate or loud sound levels. Blocking GABAergic input with local application of TTX into the SON induced an increase in firing rate of ipsilateral NM while that of the contralateral NM decreased at high sound levels. Moreover, local application of bicuculline to NM also increased the firing rate of NM neurons at high sound levels, reduced phase-locking, and broadened the frequency tuning properties of NM neurons. Following application of DNQX, clear evidence of inhibition was observed. Furthermore, the inhibition was tuned to a broader frequency range than the excitatory response areas. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition from SON has at least three physiological influences on the activity of NM neurons: it regulates the firing activity of NM units in a sound-level dependent manner; it improves phase selectivity; and it sharpens frequency tuning of NM neuronal responses.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1484-10.2010
PMCID: PMC3376706  PMID: 20826670
Superior olivary nucleus; Cochlear nucleus; Bicuculline; GABA; Auditory; In vivo
20.  Emergence of Connectivity Motifs in Networks of Model Neurons with Short- and Long-Term Plastic Synapses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84626.
Recent experimental data from the rodent cerebral cortex and olfactory bulb indicate that specific connectivity motifs are correlated with short-term dynamics of excitatory synaptic transmission. It was observed that neurons with short-term facilitating synapses form predominantly reciprocal pairwise connections, while neurons with short-term depressing synapses form predominantly unidirectional pairwise connections. The cause of these structural differences in excitatory synaptic microcircuits is unknown. We show that these connectivity motifs emerge in networks of model neurons, from the interactions between short-term synaptic dynamics (SD) and long-term spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP). While the impact of STDP on SD was shown in simultaneous neuronal pair recordings in vitro, the mutual interactions between STDP and SD in large networks are still the subject of intense research. Our approach combines an SD phenomenological model with an STDP model that faithfully captures long-term plasticity dependence on both spike times and frequency. As a proof of concept, we first simulate and analyze recurrent networks of spiking neurons with random initial connection efficacies and where synapses are either all short-term facilitating or all depressing. For identical external inputs to the network, and as a direct consequence of internally generated activity, we find that networks with depressing synapses evolve unidirectional connectivity motifs, while networks with facilitating synapses evolve reciprocal connectivity motifs. We then show that the same results hold for heterogeneous networks, including both facilitating and depressing synapses. This does not contradict a recent theory that proposes that motifs are shaped by external inputs, but rather complements it by examining the role of both the external inputs and the internally generated network activity. Our study highlights the conditions under which SD-STDP might explain the correlation between facilitation and reciprocal connectivity motifs, as well as between depression and unidirectional motifs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084626
PMCID: PMC3893143  PMID: 24454735
21.  Short Term Depression Unmasks the Ghost Frequency 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50189.
Short Term Plasticity (STP) has been shown to exist extensively in synapses throughout the brain. Its function is more or less clear in the sense that it alters the probability of synaptic transmission at short time scales. However, it is still unclear what effect STP has on the dynamics of neural networks. We show, using a novel dynamic STP model, that Short Term Depression (STD) can affect the phase of frequency coded input such that small networks can perform temporal signal summation and determination with high accuracy. We show that this property of STD can readily solve the problem of the ghost frequency, the perceived pitch of a harmonic complex in absence of the base frequency. Additionally, we demonstrate that this property can explain dynamics in larger networks. By means of two models, one of chopper neurons in the Ventral Cochlear Nucleus and one of a cortical microcircuit with inhibitory Martinotti neurons, it is shown that the dynamics in these microcircuits can reliably be reproduced using STP. Our model of STP gives important insights into the potential roles of STP in self-regulation of cortical activity and long-range afferent input in neuronal microcircuits.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050189
PMCID: PMC3515566  PMID: 23227159
22.  Differential expression of post-tetanic potentiation and retrograde signaling mediate target-dependent short-term synaptic plasticity 
Neuron  2007;54(6):949-959.
Summary
Short-term synaptic plasticity influences how presynaptic spike patterns control the firing of postsynaptic targets. Here we investigated whether specific mechanisms of short-term plasticity are regulated in a target-dependent manner, by comparing synapses made by cerebellar granule cell parallel fibers onto Golgi cells (PF→GC synapse) and Purkinje cells (PF→PC synapse). Both synapses exhibited similar facilitation, suggesting that any differential short-term plasticity does not reflect differences in the initial release probability. PF→PC synapses were highly sensitive to stimulus bursts, which could result in either depression of subsequent responses, mediated by endocannabinoid-dependent retrograde signaling, or enhancement of responses through post-tetanic potentiation (PTP). In contrast, stimulus bursts had remarkably little effect on the strength of PF→GC synapses. Unlike PCs, GCs were unable to regulate their PF synapses by releasing endocannabinoids. Moreover, PTP was reduced at the PF→GC synapse compared to the PF→PC synapse. Thus, the target-dependence of PF synapses arises from the differential expression of both retrograde signaling and PTP.
doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2007.06.002
PMCID: PMC3251520  PMID: 17582334
Munc13; PKC; DSE; DSI; augmentation; paired-pulse facilitation; mGluR
23.  Target-specific IPSC kinetics promote temporal processing in auditory parallel pathways 
The acoustic environment contains biologically relevant information on time scales from microseconds to tens of seconds. The auditory brainstem nuclei process this temporal information through parallel pathways that originate in the cochlear nucleus from different classes of cells. While the roles of ion channels and excitatory synapses in temporal processing have been well studied, the contribution of inhibition is less well understood. Here, we show in CBA/CaJ mice that the two major projection neurons of the ventral cochlear nucleus, the bushy and T-stellate cells, receive glycinergic inhibition with different synaptic conductance time courses. Bushy cells, which provide precisely timed spike trains used in sound localization and pitch identification, receive slow inhibitory inputs. In contrast, T-stellate cells, which encode slower envelope information, receive inhibition that is eight-fold faster. Both types of inhibition improved the precision of spike timing, but engage different cellular mechanisms and operate on different time scales. Computer models reveal that slow IPSCs in bushy cells can improve spike timing on the scale of tens of microseconds. While fast and slow IPSCs in T-stellate cells improve spike timing on the scale of milliseconds, only fast IPSCs can enhance the detection of narrowband acoustic signals in a complex background. Our results suggest that target-specific IPSC kinetics are critical for the segregated parallel processing of temporal information from the sensory environment.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2541-12.2013
PMCID: PMC3737999  PMID: 23345233
24.  The diverse functions of short-term plasticity components in synaptic computations 
Short-term plasticity (STP) comprises several rapid synaptic processes that operate on millisecond-to-minute timescales and modulate synaptic efficacy in an activity-dependent manner. Facilitation and augmentation are two major STP components in central synapses that work to enhance synaptic strength, while various forms of short-term depression work to decrease it. These multiple components of STP interact to perform a variety of synaptic computations. Using a modeling approach in excitatory hippocampal synapses, we recently described the contributions of individual STP components to synaptic operations. In this mini-review, we summarize the recent findings that revealed a wide palette of functions that STP components play in neural operations and discuss their roles in information processing, working memory and decision making.
doi:10.4161/cib.4.5.15870
PMCID: PMC3204123  PMID: 22046457
short-term plasticity; facilitation; augmentation; depression; information processing; synaptic filtering; working memory; decision making
25.  Interaction of short-term depression and firing dynamics in shaping single neuron encoding 
We investigated how the two properties short-term synaptic depression of afferent input and postsynaptic firing dynamics combine to determine the operating mode of a neuron. While several computational roles have been ascribed to either, their interaction has not been studied. We considered two types of short-term synaptic dynamics (release-dependent and release-independent depression) and two classes of firing dynamics (regular firing and firing with spike-frequency adaptation). The input–output transformation of the four possible combinations of pre- and post-synaptic dynamics was characterized. Adapting neurons receiving input from release-dependent synapses functioned largely as coincidence detectors. The other three configurations showed properties consistent with integrators, each with distinct features. These results suggest that the operating mode of a neuron is determined by both the pre- and post-synaptic dynamics and that studying them together is necessary to understand emergent properties and their implications for neuronal coding.
doi:10.3389/fncom.2013.00041
PMCID: PMC3630324  PMID: 23626533
short-term depression; operating modes; emergent properties; firing properties; synaptic integration

Results 1-25 (382009)