Indexed on: 05 Nov '11Published on: 05 Nov '11Published in: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Timing-dependent long-term potentiation (t-LTP) is induced when synaptic activity is immediately followed by one or more back-propagating action potentials (bAPs) in the postsynaptic cell. As a mechanistic explanation, it has been proposed that the bAP removes the Mg2+ block of synaptic NMDA receptors, allowing for rapid Ca2+ entry at the active synapse. Recent experimental studies suggest that this model is incomplete: NMDA receptor-based coincidence detection requires strong postsynaptic depolarization, usually provided by AMPA receptor currents. Apparently, the brief AMPA-EPSP does not only enable t-LTP, it is also responsible for the very narrow time window for t-LTP induction. The emerging consensus puts the spine in the center of coincidence detection, as active conductances on the spine together with the electrical resistance of the spine neck regulate the depolarization of the spine head and thus Ca2+ influx during pairing. A focus on postsynaptic voltage during synaptic activation not only encompasses spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), but explains also the cooperativity and frequency-dependence of plasticity.