Synaptic plasticity rules with physiological calcium levels
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) is considered as a primary mechanism underlying formation of new memories during learning. Despite the growing interest in activity-dependent plasticity, it is still unclear whether synaptic plasticity rules inferred from in vitro experiments are correct in physiological conditions. The abnormally high calcium concentration used in in vitro studies of STDP suggests that in vivo plasticity rules may differ significantly from in vitro experiments,
... y since STDP depends strongly on calcium for induction. We therefore studied here the influence of extracellular calcium on synaptic plasticity. Using a combination of experimental (patch-clamp recording and Ca2+ imaging at CA3-CA1 synapses) and theoretical approaches, we show here that the classic STDP rule in which pairs of single pre- and postsynaptic action potentials induce synaptic modifications is not valid in the physiological Ca2+ range. Rather, we found that these pairs of single stimuli are unable to induce any synaptic modification in 1.3 and 1.5 mM calcium and lead to depression in 1.8 mM. Plasticity can only be recovered when bursts of postsynaptic spikes are used, or when neurons fire at sufficiently high frequency. In conclusion, the STDP rule is profoundly altered in physiological Ca2+, but specific activity regimes restore a classical STDP profile.