Role of active dendritic conductances in subthreshold input integration

Michiel W H Remme, John Rinzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dendrites of many types of neurons contain voltage-dependent conductances that are active at subthreshold membrane potentials. To understand the computations neurons perform it is key to understand the role of active dendrites in the subthreshold processing of synaptic inputs. We examine systematically how active dendritic conductances affect the time course of postsynaptic potentials propagating along dendrites, and how they affect the interaction between such signals. Voltage-dependent currents can be classified into two types that have qualitatively different effects on subthreshold input responses: regenerative dendritic currents boost and broaden EPSPs, while restorative currents attenuate and narrow EPSPs. Importantly, the effects of active dendritic currents on EPSP shape increase as the EPSP travels along the dendrite. The effectiveness of active currents in modulating the EPSP shape is determined by their activation time constant: the faster it is, the stronger the effect on EPSP amplitude, while the largest effects on EPSP width occur when it is comparable to the membrane time constant. We finally demonstrate that the two current types can differentially improve precision and robustness of neural computations: restorative currents enhance coincidence detection of dendritic inputs, whereas direction selectivity to sequences of dendritic inputs is enhanced by regenerative dendritic currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-30
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Dendrites
  • Quasi-active cable
  • Synaptic integration
  • Voltage-dependent currents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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