Branch-specific dendritic Ca(2+) spikes cause persistent synaptic plasticity.
ABSTRACT: The brain has an extraordinary capacity for memory storage, but how it stores new information without disrupting previously acquired memories remains unknown. Here we show that different motor learning tasks induce dendritic Ca(2+) spikes on different apical tuft branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons in the mouse motor cortex. These task-related, branch-specific Ca(2+) spikes cause long-lasting potentiation of postsynaptic dendritic spines active at the time of spike generation. When somatostatin-expressing interneurons are inactivated, different motor tasks frequently induce Ca(2+) spikes on the same branches. On those branches, spines potentiated during one task are depotentiated when they are active seconds before Ca(2+) spikes induced by another task. Concomitantly, increased neuronal activity and performance improvement after learning one task are disrupted when another task is learned. These findings indicate that dendritic-branch-specific generation of Ca(2+) spikes is crucial for establishing long-lasting synaptic plasticity, thereby facilitating information storage associated with different learning experiences.
Project description:How sleep helps learning and memory remains unknown. We report in mouse motor cortex that sleep after motor learning promotes the formation of postsynaptic dendritic spines on a subset of branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons. New spines are formed on different sets of dendritic branches in response to different learning tasks and are protected from being eliminated when multiple tasks are learned. Neurons activated during learning of a motor task are reactivated during subsequent non-rapid eye movement sleep, and disrupting this neuronal reactivation prevents branch-specific spine formation. These findings indicate that sleep has a key role in promoting learning-dependent synapse formation and maintenance on selected dendritic branches, which contribute to memory storage.
Project description:The functions and underlying mechanisms of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep remain unclear. Here we show that REM sleep prunes newly formed postsynaptic dendritic spines of layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the mouse motor cortex during development and motor learning. This REM sleep-dependent elimination of new spines facilitates subsequent spine formation during development and when a new motor task is learned, indicating a role for REM sleep in pruning to balance the number of new spines formed over time. Moreover, REM sleep also strengthens and maintains newly formed spines, which are critical for neuronal circuit development and behavioral improvement after learning. We further show that dendritic calcium spikes arising during REM sleep are important for pruning and strengthening new spines. Together, these findings indicate that REM sleep has multifaceted functions in brain development, learning and memory consolidation by selectively eliminating and maintaining newly formed synapses via dendritic calcium spike-dependent mechanisms.
Project description:Previous findings that skill learning is associated with the formation and preferential stabilization of new dendritic spines in cortex have raised the possibility that this preferential stabilization is a mechanism for lasting skill memory. We investigated this possibility in adult mice using in vivo two-photon imaging to monitor spine dynamics on superficial apical dendrites of layer V pyramidal neurons in motor cortex during manual skill learning. Spine formation increased over the first 3?days of training on a skilled reaching task, followed by increased spine elimination. A greater proportion of spines formed during the first 3 training days were lost if training stopped after 3, compared with 15?days. However, performance gains achieved in 3 training days persisted, indicating that preferential new spine stabilization was non-essential for skill retention. Consistent with a role in ongoing skill refinement, the persistence of spines formed early in training strongly predicted performance improvements. Finally, while we observed no net spine density change on superficial dendrites, the density of spines on deeper apical branches of the same neuronal population was increased regardless of training duration, suggestive of a potential role in the retention of the initial skill memory. Together, these results indicate dendritic subpopulation-dependent variation in spine structural responses to skill learning, which potentially reflect distinct contributions to the refinement and retention of newly acquired motor skills.
Project description:Novel motor skills are learned through repetitive practice and, once acquired, persist long after training stops. Earlier studies have shown that such learning induces an increase in the efficacy of synapses in the primary motor cortex, the persistence of which is associated with retention of the task. However, how motor learning affects neuronal circuitry at the level of individual synapses and how long-lasting memory is structurally encoded in the intact brain remain unknown. Here we show that synaptic connections in the living mouse brain rapidly respond to motor-skill learning and permanently rewire. Training in a forelimb reaching task leads to rapid (within an hour) formation of postsynaptic dendritic spines on the output pyramidal neurons in the contralateral motor cortex. Although selective elimination of spines that existed before training gradually returns the overall spine density back to the original level, the new spines induced during learning are preferentially stabilized during subsequent training and endure long after training stops. Furthermore, we show that different motor skills are encoded by different sets of synapses. Practice of novel, but not previously learned, tasks further promotes dendritic spine formation in adulthood. Our findings reveal that rapid, but long-lasting, synaptic reorganization is closely associated with motor learning. The data also suggest that stabilized neuronal connections are the foundation of durable motor memory.
Project description:The active properties of dendrites can support local nonlinear operations, but previous imaging and electrophysiological measurements have produced conflicting views regarding the prevalence and selectivity of local nonlinearities in vivo. We imaged calcium signals in pyramidal cell dendrites in the motor cortex of mice performing a tactile decision task. A custom microscope allowed us to image the soma and up to 300 ?m of contiguous dendrite at 15 Hz, while resolving individual spines. New analysis methods were used to estimate the frequency and spatial scales of activity in dendritic branches and spines. The majority of dendritic calcium transients were coincident with global events. However, task-associated calcium signals in dendrites and spines were compartmentalized by dendritic branching and clustered within branches over approximately 10 ?m. Diverse behavior-related signals were intermingled and distributed throughout the dendritic arbor, potentially supporting a large learning capacity in individual neurons.
Project description:Motor skill learning induces long-lasting reorganization of dendritic spines, principal sites of excitatory synapses, in the motor cortex. However, mechanisms that regulate these excitatory synaptic changes remain poorly understood. Here, using in vivo two-photon imaging in awake mice, we found that learning-induced spine reorganization of layer (L) 2/3 excitatory neurons occurs in the distal branches of their apical dendrites in L1 but not in the perisomatic dendrites. This compartment-specific spine reorganization coincided with subtype-specific plasticity of local inhibitory circuits. Somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons (SOM-INs), which mainly inhibit distal dendrites of excitatory neurons, showed a decrease in axonal boutons immediately after the training began, whereas parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons (PV-INs), which mainly inhibit perisomatic regions of excitatory neurons, exhibited a gradual increase in axonal boutons during training. Optogenetic enhancement and suppression of SOM-IN activity during training destabilized and hyperstabilized spines, respectively, and both manipulations impaired the learning of stereotyped movements. Our results identify SOM inhibition of distal dendrites as a key regulator of learning-related changes in excitatory synapses and the acquisition of motor skills.
Project description:Many lines of evidence suggest that memory in the mammalian brain is stored with distinct spatiotemporal patterns. Despite recent progresses in identifying neuronal populations involved in memory coding, the synapse-level mechanism is still poorly understood. Computational models and electrophysiological data have shown that functional clustering of synapses along dendritic branches leads to nonlinear summation of synaptic inputs and greatly expands the computing power of a neural network. However, whether neighbouring synapses are involved in encoding similar memory and how task-specific cortical networks develop during learning remain elusive. Using transcranial two-photon microscopy, we followed apical dendrites of layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the motor cortex while mice practised novel forelimb skills. Here we show that a third of new dendritic spines (postsynaptic structures of most excitatory synapses) formed during the acquisition phase of learning emerge in clusters, and that most such clusters are neighbouring spine pairs. These clustered new spines are more likely to persist throughout prolonged learning sessions, and even long after training stops, than non-clustered counterparts. Moreover, formation of new spine clusters requires repetition of the same motor task, and the emergence of succedent new spine(s) accompanies the strengthening of the first new spine in the cluster. We also show that under control conditions new spines appear to avoid existing stable spines, rather than being uniformly added along dendrites. However, succedent new spines in clusters overcome such a spatial constraint and form in close vicinity to neighbouring stable spines. Our findings suggest that clustering of new synapses along dendrites is induced by repetitive activation of the cortical circuitry during learning, providing a structural basis for spatial coding of motor memory in the mammalian brain.
Project description:Adult dendritic spines present structural and functional plasticity, which forms the basis of learning and memory. To provide in vivo evidence of spine plasticity under neurotoxicity, we generated an acute motor deficit model by single injection of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) into adult mice. Acute MPTP infusion impairs motor learnings across test paradigms. In vivo two-photon imaging further revealed MPTP-induced prominent dendritic spine loss and substantially increased calcium spikes in apical tufts of layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the motor cortex. MPTP infusion also decreased the activity of somatostatin (SST)-expressing inhibitory interneurons. Further chemogenetic re-activation of SST interneurons reversed MPTP-induced hyperactivation of dendrites, rescued spine loss, and enhanced motor learning. Taken together, our study reports MPTP-induced structural and functional deficits of dendritic spines and suggests the potency of modulating local inhibitory transmission to relieve neurological disorders.
Project description:The late phase of long-term potentiation (LTP) at glutamatergic synapses, which is thought to underlie long-lasting memory, requires gene transcription in the nucleus. However, the mechanism by which signaling initiated at synapses is transmitted into the nucleus to induce transcription has remained elusive. Here, we found that induction of LTP in only three to seven dendritic spines in rat CA1 pyramidal neurons was sufficient to activate extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in the nucleus and regulate downstream transcription factors. Signaling from individual spines was integrated over a wide range of time (>30 minutes) and space (>80 micrometers). Spatially dispersed inputs over multiple branches activated nuclear ERK much more efficiently than clustered inputs over one branch. Thus, biochemical signals from individual dendritic spines exert profound effects on nuclear signaling.
Project description:Experience-dependent regulation of synaptic strength in the horizontal connections in layer 1 of the primary motor cortex is likely to play an important role in motor learning. Dendritic spines, the primary sites of excitatory synapses in the brain, are known to change shape in response to various experimental stimuli. We used a rat motor learning model to examine connection strength via field recordings in slices and confocal imaging of labeled spines to explore changes induced solely by learning a simple motor task. We report that motor learning increases response size, while transiently occluding long-term potentiation (LTP) and increasing spine width in layer 1. This demonstrates learning-induced changes in behavior, synaptic responses, and structure in the same animal, suggesting that an LTP-like process in the motor cortex mediates the initial learning of a skilled task.