Information in a computer is quantified by the number of bits that can be stored and recovered. An important question about the brain is how much information can be stored at a synapse through synaptic plasticity, which depends on the history of probabilistic synaptic activity. The strong correlation between size and efficacy of a synapse allowed us to estimate the variability of synaptic plasticity. In an EM reconstruction of hippocampal neuropil we found single axons making two or more synaptic contacts onto the same dendrites, having shared histories of presynaptic and postsynaptic activity. The spine heads and neck diameters, but not neck lengths, of these pairs were nearly identical in size. We found that there is a minimum of 26 distinguishable synaptic strengths, corresponding to storing 4.7 bits of information at each synapse. Because of stochastic variability of synaptic activation the observed precision requires averaging activity over several minutes.
- Sacha B Nelson, Brandeis University, United States
© 2015, Bartol et al.
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De novo mutations in voltage- and ligand-gated channels have been associated with an increasing number of cases of developmental and epileptic encephalopathies, which often fail to respond to classic antiseizure medications. Here, we examine two knock-in mouse models replicating de novo sequence variations in the HCN1 voltage-gated channel gene, p.G391D and p.M153I (Hcn1G380D/+ and Hcn1M142I/+ in mouse), associated with severe drug-resistant neonatal- and childhood-onset epilepsy, respectively. Heterozygous mice from both lines displayed spontaneous generalized tonic-clonic seizures. Animals replicating the p.G391D variant had an overall more severe phenotype, with pronounced alterations in the levels and distribution of HCN1 protein, including disrupted targeting to the axon terminals of basket cell interneurons. In line with clinical reports from patients with pathogenic HCN1 sequence variations, administration of the antiepileptic Na+ channel antagonists lamotrigine and phenytoin resulted in the paradoxical induction of seizures in both mouse lines, consistent with an effect to further impair inhibitory neuron function. We also show that these variants can render HCN1 channels unresponsive to classic antagonists, indicating the need to screen mutated channels to identify novel compounds with diverse mechanism of action. Our results underscore the necessity of tailoring effective therapies for specific channel gene variants, and how strongly validated animal models may provide an invaluable tool towards reaching this objective.
Sleep and plasticity are highly interrelated, as sleep slow oscillations and sleep spindles are associated with consolidation of Hebbian-based processes. However, in adult humans, visual cortical plasticity is mainly sustained by homeostatic mechanisms, for which the role of sleep is still largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that non-REM sleep stabilizes homeostatic plasticity of ocular dominance induced in adult humans by short-term monocular deprivation: the counter-intuitive and otherwise transient boost of the deprived eye was preserved at the morning awakening (>6 hours after deprivation). Subjects exhibiting a stronger boost of the deprived eye after sleep had increased sleep spindle density in frontopolar electrodes, suggesting the involvement of distributed processes. Crucially, the individual susceptibility to visual homeostatic plasticity soon after deprivation correlated with the changes in sleep slow oscillations and spindle power in occipital sites, consistent with a modulation in early occipital visual cortex.