Cellular excitability and the regulation of functional neuronal identity: from gene expression to neuromodulation

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Schulz, David J. ; Baines, Richard A. ; Hempel, Chris M. ; Li, L. (Lingjun) ; Liss, Birgit ; Misonou, Hiroaki (2006)

The intrinsic properties of a neuron determine the translation of synaptic input to axonal output. It is this input– output relationship that is the heart of all nervous system activity. As such, the overall regulation of the intrinsic excitability of a neuron directly determines the output of that neuron at a given point in time, giving the cell a unique “functional identity.” To maintain this distinct functional output, neurons must adapt to changing patterns of synaptic excitation. These adaptations are essential to prevent neurons from either falling silent as synaptic excitation falls or becoming saturated as excitation increases. In the absence of stabilizing mechanisms, activity-dependent plasticity could drive neural activity to saturation or quiescence. Furthermore, as cells adapt to changing patterns of synaptic input, presumably the overall balance of intrinsic conductances of the cell must be maintained so that reliable output is achieved (Daoudal and Debanne, 2003; Turrigiano and Nelson, 2004; Frick and Johnston, 2005). Although these regulatory phenomena have been well documented, the molecular and physiological mechanisms involved are poorly understood.
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