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Neural Computation

November 2007, Vol. 19, No. 11, Pages 2865-2870
(doi: 10.1162/neco.2007.19.11.2865)
© 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
J4 at Sweet 16: A New Wrinkle?
Article PDF (277.69 KB)

Compartmental models provide a major source of insight into the information processing functions of single neurons. Over the past 15 years, one of the most widely used neuronal morphologies has been the cell called "j4," a layer 5 pyramidal cell from cat visual cortex originally described in Douglas, Martin, and Whitteridge (1991). The cell has since appeared in at least 28 published compartmental modeling studies, including several in this journal. In recently examining why we could not reproduce certain in vitro data involving the attenuation of signals originating in distal basal dendrites, we discovered that pronounced fluctuations in the diameter measurements of j4 lead to a bottlenecking effect that increases distal input resistances and significantly reduces voltage transfer between distal sites and the cell body. Upon smoothing these diameter fluctuations, bringing j4 more in line with other reconstructions of layer 5 pyramidal neurons, we found that the attenuation of steady-state voltage signals traveling to the cell body Vdistal/Vsoma was reduced by 60% at some locations in some branches (corresponding to a 2.5-fold increase in the voltage response at the soma for the same distal depolarization) and by 30% on average (corresponding to a 45% increase in somatic response). Changes of this magnitude could lead to different outcomes in some types of compartmental modeling studies. A smoothed version of the j4 morphology is available online at