Democracy-independence trade-off in oscillating dendrites and its implications for grid cells.
Dendritic democracy and independence have been characterized for near-instantaneous processing of synaptic inputs. However, a wide class of neuronal computations requires input integration on long timescales. As a paradigmatic example, entorhinal grid fields have been thought to be generated by the democratic summation of independent dendritic oscillations performing direction-selective path integration. We analyzed how multiple dendritic oscillators embedded in the same neuron integrate inputs separately and determine somatic membrane voltage jointly. We found that the interaction of dendritic oscillations leads to phase locking, which sets an upper limit on the timescale for independent input integration. Factors that increase this timescale also decrease the influence that the dendritic oscillations exert on somatic voltage. In entorhinal stellate cells, interdendritic coupling dominates and causes these cells to act as single oscillators. Our results suggest a fundamental trade-off between local and global processing in dendritic trees integrating ongoing signals.