Graded bidirectional synaptic plasticity is composed of switch-like unitary events

Daniel H. O'Connor, Gayle M. Wittenberg, Samuel S.H. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Biological information storage events are often rapid transitions between discrete states. In neural systems, the initiation of bidirectional plasticity by all-or-none events may help confer robustness on memory storage. Here, we report that at CA3-CA1 hippocampal synapses, individual potentiation and depression plasticity events are discrete and heterogeneous in nature. Individual synapses began from extreme high and low strength states. Unitary plasticity events were all-or-none and drove synaptic strength between extremes in <1 min. Under naïve conditions, approximately three-fourths of synapses began in a low-strength state. The timing of these unitary events can account for the time course of macroscopic synaptic plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9679-9684
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 5 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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