As changes in synaptic strength are thought to be critical for learning and memory, it would be useful to monitor the activity of individual identified synapses on mammalian central neurons. Calcium imaging of cortical neurons grown in primary culture was used to visualize the activation of individual postsynaptic elements by miniature excitatory synaptic currents elicited by spontaneous quantal release. This approach revealed that the probability of spontaneous activity differed among synapses on the same dendrite. Furthermore, synapses that undergo changes in activity induced by glutamate or phorbol ester treatment were identified.
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