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Imaging synaptic plasticity

DOI: 10.1186/1756-6606-4-36

Keywords: synaptic plasticity, long-term potentiation, electrophysiology, optical imaging, FM dyes, Ca2+ imaging, single particle tracking, pHlourins, FRET, FLIM

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Traditionally, electrophysiological recordings and biochemical assays have been used to investigate long-term changes in synaptic efficacy following the electrical, pharmacological, or genetic manipulation of synaptic function. These methodologies limit either the spatial or temporal resolution with which biological processes can be observed and manipulated. For example, the electrophysiological characterization of long-term potentiation (LTP), as reported by increases in the amplitude of evoked postsynaptic potentials, often represents a collective change in transmission efficacy across a population of synapses rather than a direct characterization of plasticity at single sites. Moreover, the use of molecular and pharmacological techniques, although useful in elucidating the role of biochemical pathways in the induction and expression of plasticity, reveal little of the spatiotemporal dynamics of cellular signalling that follow synaptic stimulation. Such dynamics, however, are important in understanding how synaptic processing is altered across space and time following the induction of LTP.In the past decade, advances in optical imaging, combined with the use and development of fluorescent biosensors, have circumvented the problems associated with traditional experimental techniques by offering unparalleled spatiotemporal resolution of molecular events at synapses. Here, we review the use of optical imaging in recent studies of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, with a particular focus on how such techniques have been used to assess the 1) presynaptic and 2) postsynaptic expression of LTP, and 3) to examine the spatiotemporal dynamics of plasticity-related signalling.Changes in synaptic efficacy are supported by changes at either pre- or post- synaptic sites [1]. Within the hippocampus, the locus of LTP expression has been a point of contention for many years, in part, due to the difficulties in dissociating the pre- and post- synaptic components of plasticity


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