The role of ongoing dendritic oscillations in single-neuron dynamics.
The dendritic tree contributes significantly to the elementary computations a neuron performs while converting its synaptic inputs into action potential output. Traditionally, these computations have been characterized as both temporally and spatially localized. Under this localist account, neurons compute near-instantaneous mappings from their current input to their current output, brought about by somatic summation of dendritic contributions that are generated in functionally segregated compartments. However, recent evidence about the presence of oscillations in dendrites suggests a qualitatively different mode of operation: the instantaneous phase of such oscillations can depend on a long history of inputs, and under appropriate conditions, even dendritic oscillators that are remote may interact through synchronization. Here, we develop a mathematical framework to analyze the interactions of local dendritic oscillations and the way these interactions influence single cell computations. Combining weakly coupled oscillator methods with cable theoretic arguments, we derive phase-locking states for multiple oscillating dendritic compartments. We characterize how the phase-locking properties depend on key parameters of the oscillating dendrite: the electrotonic properties of the (active) dendritic segment, and the intrinsic properties of the dendritic oscillators. As a direct consequence, we show how input to the dendrites can modulate phase-locking behavior and hence global dendritic coherence. In turn, dendritic coherence is able to gate the integration and propagation of synaptic signals to the soma, ultimately leading to an effective control of somatic spike generation. Our results suggest that dendritic oscillations enable the dendritic tree to operate on more global temporal and spatial scales than previously thought; notably that local dendritic activity may be a mechanism for generating on-going whole-cell voltage oscillations.