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Science 310 (5749): 866-869

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Neuronal Activity Regulates Diffusion Across the Neck of Dendritic Spines

Brenda L. Bloodgood, and Bernardo L. Sabatini*

Abstract: In mammalian excitatory neurons, dendritic spines are separated from dendrites by thin necks. Diffusion across the neck limits the chemical and electrical isolation of each spine. We found that spine/dendrite diffusional coupling is heterogeneous and uncovered a class of diffusionally isolated spines. The barrier to diffusion posed by the neck and the number of diffusionally isolated spines is bidirectionally regulated by neuronal activity. Furthermore, coincident synaptic activation and postsynaptic action potentials rapidly restrict diffusion across the neck. The regulation of diffusional coupling provides a possible mechanism for determining the amplitude of postsynaptic potentials and the accumulation of plasticity-inducing molecules within the spine head.

Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: bsabatini{at}

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