Binary behaviour of some dendrites

Andrew Gyles syzygium at alphalink.com.au
Sun Sep 23 20:52:35 EST 2001

In December 2000 there was some discussion in this newsgroup of my
hypothesis that mitochondria might act as flip-flop memory elements in

One counter-argument ran as follows: "Why should neurons need a flip-flop
memory element? There's no evidence they're digital".

Well, perhaps there is some evidence now. In the 21 December 2000 issue of
"Science" Dong-Sheng Wei et al report binary behaviour of some terminal
apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons, which they characterised as
"all-or-none responses that were subthreshold for somatic action

They remarked that "Compartmentalized and binary behavior of
parallel-connected terminal dendrites can greatly expand the computational
power of a single neuron".

Of course I am aware that the paper in "Science" does not support my
hypothesis about a possible role of mitochondria, which is speculative.
However, it does (in my inexpert opinion) show that the behaviour of some
dendrites is "digital".

Andrew Gyles

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