The NMDAR-dependent synaptic plasticity is thought to mediate several forms of learning, and can be induced by spike trains containing a small number of spikes occurring with varying rates and timing, as well as with oscillations. We computed the influence of these variables on the plasticity induced at a single NMDAR containing synapse using a reduced model that was analytically tractable, and these findings were confirmed using detailed, multi-compartment model. In addition to explaining diverse experimental results about the rate and timing dependence of synaptic plasticity, the model made several novel and testable predictions. We found that there was a preferred frequency for inducing long-term potentiation (LTP) such that higher frequency stimuli induced lesser LTP, decreasing as 1/f when the number of spikes in the stimulus was kept fixed. Among other things, the preferred frequency for inducing LTP varied as a function of the distance of the synapse from the soma. In fact, same stimulation frequencies could induce LTP or long-term depression depending on the dendritic location of the synapse. Next, we found that rhythmic stimuli induced greater plasticity then irregular stimuli. Furthermore, brief bursts of spikes significantly expanded the timing dependence of plasticity. Finally, we found that in the ~5-15-Hz frequency range both rate- and timing-dependent plasticity mechanisms work synergistically to render the synaptic plasticity most sensitive to spike timing. These findings provide computational evidence that oscillations can have a profound influence on the plasticity of an NMDAR-dependent synapse, and show a novel role for the dendritic morphology in this process.
2011. Vol. 5, no 38