One way to achieve amplification of distal synaptic inputs on a dendritic tree is to scale the amplitude and/or duration of the synaptic conductance with its distance from the soma. This is an example of what is often referred to as “dendritic democracy”. Although well studied experimentally, to date this phenomenon has not been thoroughly explored from a mathematical perspective. In this paper we adopt a passive model of a dendritic tree with distributed excitatory synaptic conductances and analyze a number of key measures of democracy. In particular, via moment methods we derive laws for the transport, from synapse to soma, of strength, characteristic time, and dispersion. These laws lead immediately to synaptic scalings that overcome attenuation with distance. We follow this with a Neumann approximation of Green’s representation that readily produces the synaptic scaling that democratizes the peak somatic voltage response. Results are obtained for both idealized geometries and for the more realistic geometry of a rat CA1 pyramidal cell. For each measure of democratization we produce and contrast the synaptic scaling associated with treating the synapse as either a conductance change or a current injection. We find that our respective scalings agree up to a critical distance from the soma and we reveal how this critical distance decreases with decreasing branch radius.
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The work in this paper is supported through Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Grant No. GR/S60914/01. S Coombes would also like to acknowledge ongoing support from the EPSRC through the award of an Advanced Research Fellowship, Grant No. GR/R76219. K Josić was supported by NSF grant DMS-0604429, and an Advanced Research Program/Advanced Technology Program grant.
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Timofeeva, Y., Cox, S.J., Coombes, S. et al. Democratization in a passive dendritic tree: an analytical investigation. J Comput Neurosci 25, 228–244 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10827-008-0075-9