Short-Term Plasticity Optimizes Synaptic Information Transmission

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for Investigations of Membrane Excitability Disorders, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.34). 10/2011; 31(41):14800-9. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3231-11.2011
Source: PubMed


Short-term synaptic plasticity (STP) is widely thought to play an important role in information processing. This major function of STP has recently been challenged, however, by several computational studies indicating that transmission of information by dynamic synapses is broadband, i.e., frequency independent. Here we developed an analytical approach to quantify time- and rate-dependent synaptic information transfer during arbitrary spike trains using a realistic model of synaptic dynamics in excitatory hippocampal synapses. We found that STP indeed increases information transfer in a wide range of input rates, which corresponds well to the naturally occurring spike frequencies at these synapses. This increased information transfer is observed both during Poisson-distributed spike trains with a constant rate and during naturalistic spike trains recorded in hippocampal place cells in exploring rodents. Interestingly, we found that the presence of STP in low release probability excitatory synapses leads to optimization of information transfer specifically for short high-frequency bursts, which are indeed commonly observed in many excitatory hippocampal neurons. In contrast, more reliable high release probability synapses that express dominant short-term depression are predicted to have optimal information transmission for single spikes rather than bursts. This prediction is verified in analyses of experimental recordings from high release probability inhibitory synapses in mouse hippocampal slices and fits well with the observation that inhibitory hippocampal interneurons do not commonly fire spike bursts. We conclude that STP indeed contributes significantly to synaptic information transfer and may serve to maximize information transfer for specific firing patterns of the corresponding neurons.

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