Bilinearity in Spatiotemporal Integration of Synaptic Inputs

Songting Li, Nan Liu, Xiao hui Zhang, Douglas Zhou, David Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurons process information via integration of synaptic inputs from dendrites. Many experimental results demonstrate dendritic integration could be highly nonlinear, yet few theoretical analyses have been performed to obtain a precise quantitative characterization analytically. Based on asymptotic analysis of a two-compartment passive cable model, given a pair of time-dependent synaptic conductance inputs, we derive a bilinear spatiotemporal dendritic integration rule. The summed somatic potential can be well approximated by the linear summation of the two postsynaptic potentials elicited separately, plus a third additional bilinear term proportional to their product with a proportionality coefficient (Formula presented.) . The rule is valid for a pair of synaptic inputs of all types, including excitation-inhibition, excitation-excitation, and inhibition-inhibition. In addition, the rule is valid during the whole dendritic integration process for a pair of synaptic inputs with arbitrary input time differences and input locations. The coefficient (Formula presented.) is demonstrated to be nearly independent of the input strengths but is dependent on input times and input locations. This rule is then verified through simulation of a realistic pyramidal neuron model and in electrophysiological experiments of rat hippocampal CA1 neurons. The rule is further generalized to describe the spatiotemporal dendritic integration of multiple excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs. The integration of multiple inputs can be decomposed into the sum of all possible pairwise integration, where each paired integration obeys the bilinear rule. This decomposition leads to a graph representation of dendritic integration, which can be viewed as functionally sparse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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