Increased Prevalence of Calcium Transients across the Dendritic Arbor during Place Field Formation

Mark E.J. Sheffield, Michael D. Adoff, Daniel A. Dombeck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Hippocampal place cell ensembles form a cognitive map of space during exposure to novel environments. However, surprisingly little evidence exists to support the idea that synaptic plasticity in place cells is involved in forming new place fields. Here we used high-resolution functional imaging to determine the signaling patterns in CA1 soma, dendrites, and axons associated with place field formation when mice are exposed to novel virtual environments. We found that putative local dendritic spikes often occur prior to somatic place field firing. Subsequently, the first occurrence of somatic place field firing was associated with widespread regenerative dendritic events, which decreased in prevalence with increased novel environment experience. This transient increase in regenerative events was likely facilitated by a reduction in dendritic inhibition. Since regenerative dendritic events can provide the depolarization necessary for Hebbian potentiation, these results suggest that activity-dependent synaptic plasticity underlies the formation of many CA1 place fields. Sheffield et al. reveal microscopic plasticity-related events occurring in hippocampal neurons that likely underlie spatial memory formation when animals encounter new environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-504.e5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 11 2017


  • branch spike
  • calcium imaging
  • dendritic spike
  • hebbian
  • hippocampus
  • memory formation
  • navigation
  • place cell
  • two-photon microscopy
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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