Short-term synaptic plasticity contributes to the temporal filtering of electrosensory information

Eric S. Fortune, Gary J. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Short-term synaptic depression and facilitation often are elicited by different temporal patterns of activity. Short-term plasticity may contribute, therefore, to temporal filtering by impeding synaptic transmission for some temporal patterns of activity and facilitating transmission for other patterns. We examined this hypothesis by investigating whether short-term plasticity contributes to the temporal filtering properties of midbrain electrosensory neurons. Postsynaptic potentials were recorded in response to sensory stimuli and to direct stimulation of afferents, in vivo. Stimulating afferents with pairs of pulses at a rate of 20 pairs/sec ['tetanus (20 Hz)'] induced PSP depression. This PSP depression was similar to that observed for electrosensory stimuli of the same temporal frequency. Analysis of PSPs elicited by a pair of pulses that preceded versus followed the tetanus revealed that PSP depression was caused by synaptic depression, not by a loss of facilitation. Behavioral studies indicate that fish can detect slow changes in signal amplitude (slow AM) in backgrounds of fast fluctuations. Correspondingly, midbrain neurons respond well to slow AM even in the presence of fast AM. In many neurons, facilitation enhanced responses to trains (8-10 pulses; 100 Hz) that represented activity patterns elicited by slow AM, despite induction of synaptic depression by a tetanus (20 Hz). The interplay between synaptic depression and facilitation, therefore, can act as a filter of temporal information. Some neurons that showed little facilitation nonetheless responded to low temporal-frequency information after induction of depression by fast information; this likely results from the convergence of inputs with different temporal filtering properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7122-7130
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Facilitation
  • In vivo
  • Intracellular
  • Jamming avoidance response
  • Midbrain
  • Sensory processing
  • Synaptic depression
  • Whole-cell patch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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