New Types of Experiments Reveal that a Neuron Functions as Multiple Independent Threshold Units

Shira Sardi, Roni Vardi, Anton Sheinin, Amir Goldental, Ido Kanter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neurons are the computational elements that compose the brain and their fundamental principles of activity are known for decades. According to the long-lasting computational scheme, each neuron sums the incoming electrical signals via its dendrites and when the membrane potential reaches a certain threshold the neuron typically generates a spike to its axon. Here we present three types of experiments, using neuronal cultures, indicating that each neuron functions as a collection of independent threshold units. The neuron is anisotropically activated following the origin of the arriving signals to the membrane, via its dendritic trees. The first type of experiments demonstrates that a single neuron's spike waveform typically varies as a function of the stimulation location. The second type reveals that spatial summation is absent for extracellular stimulations from different directions. The third type indicates that spatial summation and subtraction are not achieved when combining intra- and extra- cellular stimulations, as well as for nonlocal time interference, where the precise timings of the stimulations are irrelevant. Results call to re-examine neuronal functionalities beyond the traditional framework, and the advanced computational capabilities and dynamical properties of such complex systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18036
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 21 Dec 2017

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© 2017 The Author(s).

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