A defining feature of the brain is its ability to adapt structural and functional properties of synaptic contacts in an experience-dependent manner. In the human cortex direct experimental evidence for synaptic plasticity is currently missing. Here, we probed plasticity in human cortical slices using the vitamin A derivative all-trans retinoic acid, which has been suggested as medication for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease. Our experiments demonstrate coordinated structural and functional changes of excitatory synapses of superficial (layer 2/3) pyramidal neurons in the presence of all-trans retinoic acid. This synaptic adaptation is accompanied by ultrastructural remodeling of the calcium-storing spine apparatus organelle and requires mRNA-translation. We conclude that all-trans retinoic acid is a potent mediator of synaptic plasticity in the adult human cortex.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience