Synaptic modification rules ?

NMF nm_fournier at
Wed May 19 18:20:09 EST 2004

> Neil, sounds like you have also read (or ought to read) the work of Greg
> Stuart and Michael Hausser regarding the immense complexity of synaptic
> inputs filtering through a dendritic tree.  Not only do large changes in
> membrane capacitance cause great variation in EPSP (more distal = larger
> in general, for a given current), but the generation of sodium and
> calcium spikes which are actively propagated is a very strong
> coincidence detection mechanism, although the coincidence would need to
> be between two inputs rather than a pre and postsynaptic cell.  Of
> course the BAP gets into this melee as well.  I love telling students
> this stuff when they think they have neuron basics down pat.  Then when
> they get comfortable there, I hit them with glial interactions.  I
> always say, if it seems straightforward, you haven't understood the
> problem!
>       Cheers,
>          Matthew.

I am quite familiar with work of Stuart, Spruston, and Hausser.  Actually I
find their recent book, Dendrites, to be one of the best discussion on this
field.  I also think it is extremely well written and has contribution from
all the big "dendrite" people.

Matt it's so true.  If it is straightforward then you haven't understood the
problem.  It's funny that you say this because just recently I did a lecture
for a upper year undergraduate class on the basic electrophysiology of the
neuron (i.e. resting membrane potential, action potential generation, etc.),
I was quite shocked (AND QUITE FRUSTRATED) that many of the students fail to
understand (because they were not taught) the basic mechanics behind the
entire process.   Many students (including many professors) can fake
understanding these processes by using the many buzz words, like
"all-or-none" or "absolute refractory period(s)", in discussion.   However,
when you begin to probe further to determine if they truly understand the
process, it becomes quite apparent that they don't really understand.  I
find this extremely frustrating.  And it isn't just in neuroscience.  It is
especially prominent in the field of statistics and science.   Most students
(and once again professors) have no clue what they are doing, especially
since all the programs are all windows based and you can do what I call
"menu-clicking stats".  The sad reality of this is that many of these kinds
of people routinely publish research.

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