Dendrites are specialized structures that are found on the surface of neurons and are responsible for receiving, transmitting, and processing signals from other neurons and the environment. They are the primary input region of the neuron and are essential for neuronal communication. In this article, we will explore the structure and function of dendrites, their role in synaptic plasticity, and how they are affected by disease and aging.
Structure of Dendrites
Dendrites are tree-like structures that extend from the cell body of the neuron. They are composed of dendritic spines, which are small protrusions that contain postsynaptic receptors which receive excitatory or inhibitory signals from other neurons. Dendritic spines are highly dynamic and can change shape and size in response to changes in synaptic activity. Dendrites also have an array of other proteins and organelles which are involved in signal transduction and processing.
Function of Dendrites
Dendrites are the primary site of synaptic integration, where incoming signals from other neurons are received and processed. Dendrites also play an important role in synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of neurons to increase or decrease their sensitivity to incoming signals in response to experience and learning. This process is driven by changes in the number and size of dendritic spines, which is largely dependent on the activity of the neuron.
Dendrites in Disease and Aging
Changes in dendritic structure and function have been linked to a variety of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, a decline in dendritic spine density has been observed in certain regions of the brain, which may contribute to memory loss. In Parkinson’s disease, changes in dendritic structure and function have been linked to a decrease in dopamine-dependent plasticity. Age-related changes in dendritic structure and function have also been observed, with a decrease in spine density and synaptic plasticity in aging brains.
Dendrites are specialized structures found on the surface of neurons that are responsible for receiving, transmitting, and processing signals from other neurons and the environment. They are essential for neuronal communication and synaptic plasticity, and changes in dendritic structure and function are associated with a variety of diseases and aging.
Borges, K., & Freitas, A. S. (2015). Dendritic spine plasticity. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 50, 215–222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.04.011
Ito, K., & Schikorski, T. (2001). Dendritic spine geometry: Relationship to synaptic function. Neuroscientist, 7(4), 295–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/107385840100700408
Rao, M. S., & Craig, A. M. (2010). Structural plasticity in dendritic spines. Neuron, 68(2), 236–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.037
Salehi, A., & Alkondon, M. (2017). Altered dendritic structure and function in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Neural Regeneration Research, 12(2), 320–330. https://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.194490