Elevated postsynaptic [CA2+]i and L-type calcium channel activity in aged hippocampal neurons: Relationship to impaired synaptic plasticity

Olivier Thibault, Robert Hadley, Philip W. Landfield

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243 Scopus citations


Considerable evidence supports a Ca2+ dysregulation hypothesis of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease. However, it is still not known whether (1) intracellular [Ca2+]i is altered in aged brain neurons during synaptically activated neuronal activity; (2) altered [Ca2+-]i is directly correlated with impaired neuronal plasticity; or (3) the previously observed age-related increase in L-type voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channel (L-VSCC) density in hippocampal neurons is sufficient to impair synaptic plasticity. Here, we used confocal microscopy to image [Ca2+]i in single CA1 neurons in hippocampal slices of young-adult and aged rats during repetitive synaptic activation. Simultaneously, we recorded intracellular EPSP frequency facilitation (FF), a form of short-term synaptic plasticity that is impaired with aging and inversely correlated with cognitive function. Resting [Ca2+]i did not differ clearly with age. Greater elevation of somatic [Ca2+]i and greater depression of FF developed in aged neurons during 20 sec trains of 7 Hz synaptic activation, but only if the activation triggered repetitive action potentials for several seconds. Elevated [Ca2+]i and FF also were negatively correlated in individual aged neurons. In addition, the selective L-VSCC agonist Bay K8644 increased the afterhyperpolarization and mimicked the depressive effects of aging on FF in young-adult neurons. Thus, during physiologically relevant firing patterns in aging neurons, postsynaptic Ca2+ elevation is closely associated with altered neuronal plasticity. Moreover, selectively increasing postsynaptic L-VSCC activity, as occurs in aging, negatively regulated a form of short-term plasticity that enhances synaptic throughput. Together, the results elucidate novel processes that may contribute to impaired cognitive function in aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9744-9756
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2001


  • Dendrites
  • Frequency facilitation
  • Homeostasis
  • Imaging
  • Memory
  • Repetitive activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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