Axonal Na+ channels detect and transmit levels of input synchrony in local brain circuits

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Science Advances  06 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 19, eaay4313
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4313


Sensory processing requires mechanisms of fast coincidence detection to discriminate synchronous from asynchronous inputs. Spike threshold adaptation enables such a discrimination but is ineffective in transmitting this information to the network. We show here that presynaptic axonal sodium channels read and transmit precise levels of input synchrony to the postsynaptic cell by modulating the presynaptic action potential (AP) amplitude. As a consequence, synaptic transmission is facilitated at cortical synapses when the presynaptic spike is produced by synchronous inputs. Using dual soma-axon recordings, imaging, and modeling, we show that this facilitation results from enhanced AP amplitude in the axon due to minimized inactivation of axonal sodium channels. Quantifying local circuit activity and using network modeling, we found that spikes induced by synchronous inputs produced a larger effect on network activity than spikes induced by asynchronous inputs. Therefore, this input synchrony–dependent facilitation may constitute a powerful mechanism, regulating synaptic transmission at proximal synapses.

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