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Use-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity have been extensively characterized at chemical synapses, but a relationship between natural activity and strength at electrical synapses remains elusive. The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), a brain area rich in gap-junctional (electrical) synapses, regulates cortical attention to the sensory surround and participates in shifts between arousal states; plasticity of electrical synapses may be a key mechanism underlying these processes. We observed long-term depression resulting from coordinated burst firing in pairs of coupled TRN neurons. Changes in gap-junctional communication were asymmetrical, indicating that regulation of connectivity depends on the direction of use. Modification of electrical synapses resulting from activity in coupled neurons is likely to be a widespread and powerful mechanism for dynamic reorganization of electrically coupled neuronal networks.


Julie S Haas, Baltazar Zavala, Carole E Landisman. Activity-dependent long-term depression of electrical synapses. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2011 Oct 21;334(6054):389-93

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PMID: 22021860

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