In the mammalian brain, the anatomical structure of neural circuits changes little during adulthood. As a result, adult learning and memory are thought to result from specific changes in synaptic strength. A possible exception is the olfactory bulb (OB), where activity guides interneuron turnover throughout adulthood. These adult-born granule cell (GC) interneurons form new GABAergic synapses that have little synaptic strength plasticity. In the face of persistent neuronal and synaptic turnover, how does the OB balance flexibility, as is required for adapting to changing sensory environments, with perceptual stability? Here we show that high dendritic spine turnover is a universal feature of GCs, regardless of their developmental origin and age. We find matching dynamics among postsynaptic sites on the principal neurons receiving the new synaptic inputs. We further demonstrate in silico that this coordinated structural plasticity is consistent with stable, yet flexible, decorrelated sensory representations. Together, our study reveals that persistent, coordinated synaptic structural plasticity between interneurons and principal neurons is a major mode of functional plasticity in the OB. Using in vivo imaging, Sailor and Valley et al. (2016) show matching, robust structural plasticity in olfactory bulb granule and mitral/tufted cell synapses. Computational modeling shows this structural plasticity is compatible with stable memory and high adaptability to changing sensory inputs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas