Electrical consequences of spine dimensions in a model of a cortical spiny stellate cell completely reconstructed from serial thin sections

Idan Segev, Alon Friedman, Edward L. White, Michael J. Gutnick

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24 Scopus citations


We built a passive compartmental model of a cortical spiny stellate cell from the barrel cortex of the mouse that had been reconstructed in its entirety from electron microscopic analysis of serial thin sections (White and Rock, 1980). Morphological data included dimensions of soma and all five dendrites, neck lengths and head diameters of all 380 spines (a uniform neck diameter of 0.1 μm was assumed), locations of all symmetrical and asymmetrical (axo-spinous) synapses, and locations of all 43 thalamocortical (TC) synapses (as identified from the consequences of a prior thalamic lesion). In the model, unitary excitatory synaptic inputs had a peak conductance change of 0.5 nS at 0.2 msec; conclusions were robust over a wide range of assumed passive-membrane parameters. When recorded at the soma, all unitary EPSPs, which were initiated at the spine heads, were relatively iso-efficient; each produced about 1 mV somatic depolarization regardless of spine location or geometry. However, in the spine heads there was a twentyfold variation in EPSP amplitudes, largely reflecting the variation in spine neck lengths. Synchronous activation of the TC synapses produced a somatic depolarization probably sufficient to fire the neuron; doubling or halving the TC spine neck diameters had only minimal effect on the amplitude of the composite TC-EPSP. As have others, we also conclude that from a somato-centric viewpoint, changes in spine geometry would have relatively little direct influence on amplitudes of EPSPs recorded at the soma, especially for a distributed, synchronously activated input such as the TC pathway. However, consideration of the detailed morphology of an entire neuron indicates that, from a dendro-centric point of view, changes in spine dimension can have a very significant electrical impact on local processing near the sites of input.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 1995


  • asymmetrical synapses
  • barrel cortex
  • compartmental model
  • dendritic spines
  • electron microscopy
  • mouse
  • thalamo-cortical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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