Fidelity of complex spike-mediated synaptic transmission between inhibitory interneurons

Michael T. Roberts, Kevin J. Bender, Laurence O. Trussell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Complex spikes are high-frequency bursts of Na+ spikes, often riding on a slower Ca2+-dependent waveform. Although complex spikes may propagate into axons, given their unusual shape it is not clear how reliably these bursts reach nerve terminals, whether their spikes are efficiently transmitted as a cluster of postsynaptic responses, or what function is served by such a concentrated postsynaptic signal. We examined these questions by recording from synaptically coupled pairs of cartwheel cells, neurons which fire complex spikes and form an inhibitory network in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Complex spikes in the presynaptic soma were reliably propagated to nerve terminals and elicited powerful, temporally precise postsynaptic responses. Single presynaptic neurons could prevent their postsynaptic partner from firing complex but not simple spikes, dramatically reducing dendritic Ca2+ signals in the postsynaptic neuron. We suggest that rapid transmission of complex spikes may control the susceptibility of neighboring neurons to Ca 2+-dependent plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9440-9450
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 17 2008


  • Calcium imaging
  • Cochlear nucleus
  • Complex spike
  • Electrophysiology
  • Interneuron
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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