Heterogeneous firing responses predict diverse couplings to presynaptic activity in mice Layer V pyramidal neurons.
Yann Zerlaut and Alain Destexhe.

PLOS Computational Biology 13: e1005452, 2017.

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In this study, we present a theoretical framework combining experimental characterizations and analytical calculus to capture the firing rate input-output properties of single neurons in the fluctuation-driven regime. Our framework consists of a two-step procedure to treat independently how the dendritic input translates into somatic fluctuation variables, and how the latter determine action potential firing. We use this framework to investigate the functional impact of the heterogeneity in firing responses found experimentally in young mice layer V pyramidal cells. We first design and calibrate in vitro a simplified morphological model of layer V pyramidal neurons with a dendritic tree following Rall’s branching rule. Then, we propose an analytical derivation for the membrane potential fluctuations at the soma as a function of the properties of the synaptic input in dendrites. This mathematical description allows us to easily emulate various forms of synaptic input: either balanced, unbalanced, synchronized, purely proximal or purely distal synaptic activity. We find that those different forms of dendritic input activity lead to various impact on the somatic membrane potential fluctuations properties, thus raising the possibility that individual neurons will differentially couple to specific forms of activity as a result of their different firing response. We indeed found such a heterogeneous coupling between synaptic input and firing response for all types of presynaptic activity. This heterogeneity can be explained by different levels of cellular excitability in the case of the balanced, unbalanced, synchronized and purely distal activity. A notable exception appears for proximal dendritic inputs: increasing the input level can either promote firing response in some cells, or suppress it in some other cells whatever their individual excitability. This behavior can be explained by different sensitivities to the speed of the fluctuations, which was previously associated to different levels of sodium channel inactivation and density. Because local network connectivity rather targets proximal dendrites, our results suggest that this aspect of biophysical heterogeneity might be relevant to neocortical processing by controlling how individual neurons couple to local network activity.