Probing the causal role of dendrites

Matteo Carandini (primary)
Institute of Ophthalmology
Kenneth D. Harris (secondary)
Institute of Neurology


Cortical neurons have complex dendritic trees that extend in multiple directions and span multiple layers. There are theories for why this is the case, but they have not been tested causally. Recent work in our collaboration has perfected an optical method to test these theories: cutting one or more of a neuron’s dendrites (dendrotomy) under 2-photon imaging and comparing the activity of the neuron before and after the procedure. In this project, we will apply this technique to understand what apical dendrites do, testing the longstanding hypothesis that they carry top-down signals from higher visual areas and other brain regions.


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2 Spratling, M.W. (2002). Cortical region interactions and the functional role of apical dendrites. Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev 1, 2
3 Park, J., Papoutsi, A., Ash, R.T., Marin, M.A., Poirazi, P., and Smirnakis, S.M. (2019). Contribution of apical and basal dendrites to orientation encoding in mouse V1 L2/3 pyramidal neurons. Nature communications 10, 5372.
4 Stringer, C., Pachitariu, M., Steinmetz, N., Carandini, M., and Harris, K.D. (2019). High-dimensional geometry of population responses in visual cortex. Nature 571, 361-365.
5 Stringer, C., Pachitariu, M., Steinmetz, N., Bai Reddy, C., Carandini, M., and Harris, K.D. (2019). Spontaneous behaviors drive multidimensional, brainwide activity. Science 364, 255.

Animal disease, health and welfare
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
GeneticsImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologySimulation / Modelling