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Research - Finestructure - Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg
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 Research

 Finestructure

Neurons in different parts of the brain can be classified into two groups according to whether or not their dendrites are studded with spines. Spines, sometimes also called dendritic thorns, are tiny, specialized protoplasmic protuberances that cover the surfaces of pyramidal and stellate cells. In neocortex they account for about three-quarters of the neurons, while smooth cells, whose dendrites carry few or no spines, make up the reminder.

Spines are the major recipients of excitatory input (> 90%), and play a crucial role in the activity-dependent modification of synaptic efficacy such as long term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD). Both the absolute number and the shape of spines can change during development and in the mature animal as a function of hormonal fluctuations or external stimulation (such as sensory stimulation, social interaction, learning or exploratory motor activity).
In fixed tissue spines show a wide variety of shapes, ranging from short and stubby (ø 0,32 ± 0,13 µm), through mushroom shaped (ø 0,20 ± 0,07 µm), to long and thin ones (ø 0,10 ± 0,03 µm). Using molecular fluorescence labelling methods in combination with time-lapse imaging techniques the dynamics of spine development can be visualized in in vitro systems.

The images/movies show:

DiI-labelled neuron from human prefrontal cortex (86 kB)
Dendrite with spines from a cortical neuron filled with the fluorescent dye Lucifer Yellow (13,9 MB)
Comparison of 1Photon- versus 2 Photon-excitation (109 kB)
Electrophysiologically and/or chemically characterized neurons (129 kB)
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