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Science 334 (6054): 389-393

Copyright © 2011 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Activity-Dependent Long-Term Depression of Electrical Synapses

Julie S. Haas,1,2,* Baltazar Zavala,2 Carole E. Landisman1,2,*

Abstract: Use-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity have been extensively characterized at chemical synapses, but a relationship between natural activity and strength at electrical synapses remains elusive. The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), a brain area rich in gap-junctional (electrical) synapses, regulates cortical attention to the sensory surround and participates in shifts between arousal states; plasticity of electrical synapses may be a key mechanism underlying these processes. We observed long-term depression resulting from coordinated burst firing in pairs of coupled TRN neurons. Changes in gap-junctional communication were asymmetrical, indicating that regulation of connectivity depends on the direction of use. Modification of electrical synapses resulting from activity in coupled neurons is likely to be a widespread and powerful mechanism for dynamic reorganization of electrically coupled neuronal networks.

1 Children’s Hospital, Department of Neurology, Harvard University, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
2 Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: julie.haas{at} (J.S.H.); carole.landisman{at} (C.E.L.)

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