Abstract: An approach combining signal detection theory and precise 3D reconstructions from serial section electron microscopy (3DEM) was used to investigate synaptic plasticity and information storage capacity at medial perforant path synapses in adult hippocampal dentate gyrus in vivo. Induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) markedly increased the frequencies of both small and large spines measured 30 minutes later. This bidirectional expansion resulted in heterosynaptic counterbalancing of total synaptic area per unit length of granule cell dendrite. Control hemispheres exhibited 6.5 distinct spine sizes for 2.7 bits of storage capacity while LTP resulted in 12.9 distinct spine sizes (3.7 bits). In contrast, control hippocampal CA1 synapses exhibited 4.7 bits with much greater synaptic precision than either control or potentiated dentate gyrus synapses. Thus, synaptic plasticity altered total capacity, yet hippocampal subregions differed dramatically in their synaptic information storage capacity, reflecting their diverse functions and activation histories.

Authors: Bromer C, Bartol TM, Bowden JB, Hubbard DD, Hanka DC, Gonzalez PV, Kuwajima M, Mendenhall JM, Parker PH, Abraham WC, Sejnowski TJ, Harris KM