288 pp. per issue
6 x 9, illustrated
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Neural Computation

August 2010, Vol. 22, No. 8, Pages 2031-2058
(doi: 10.1162/NECO_a_00006-Arleo)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
How Synaptic Release Probability Shapes Neuronal Transmission: Information-Theoretic Analysis in a Cerebellar Granule Cell
Article PDF (3.51 MB)

A nerve cell receives multiple inputs from upstream neurons by way of its synapses. Neuron processing functions are thus influenced by changes in the biophysical properties of the synapse, such as long-term potentiation (LTP) or depression (LTD). This observation has opened new perspectives on the biophysical basis of learning and memory, but its quantitative impact on the information transmission of a neuron remains partially elucidated. One major obstacle is the high dimensionality of the neuronal input-output space, which makes it unfeasible to perform a thorough computational analysis of a neuron with multiple synaptic inputs. In this work, information theory was employed to characterize the information transmission of a cerebellar granule cell over a region of its excitatory input space following synaptic changes. Granule cells have a small dendritic tree (on average, they receive only four mossy fiber afferents), which greatly bounds the input combinatorial space, reducing the complexity of information-theoretic calculations. Numerical simulations and LTP experiments quantified how changes in neurotransmitter release probability (p) modulated information transmission of a cerebellar granule cell. Numerical simulations showed that p shaped the neurotransmission landscape in unexpected ways. As p increased, the optimality of the information transmission of most stimuli did not increase strictly monotonically; instead it reached a plateau at intermediate p levels. Furthermore, our results showed that the spatiotemporal characteristics of the inputs determine the effect of p on neurotransmission, thus permitting the selection of distinctive preferred stimuli for different p values. These selective mechanisms may have important consequences on the encoding of cerebellar mossy fiber inputs and the plasticity and computation at the next circuit stage, including the parallel fiber–Purkinje cell synapses.