Synapse formation and network rewiring is key to build neural circuits during development and has been widely observed in adult brains. Maintaining neural activity with the help of synaptic plasticity is essential to enable normal brain function. The model of homeostatic structural plasticity (HSP) was proposed to reflect the homeostatic regulation of neural activity and explain structural changes seen after perturbations. However, the specific temporal profile of such plastic responses has not yet been elucidated in experiments. To address this issue, we combined computational modeling and mouse optogenetic stimulation experiments. Our model predicted that within 48h post-stimulation, neural activity returns to baseline, while the connectivity among stimulated neurons follows a very specific transient increase and decrease. To capture such dynamics experimentally in vivo, we activated the pyramidal neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex of mice and harvested their brains at 1.5h, 24h, and 48h post-stimulation. Cortical hyperactivity as demonstrated by robust c-Fos expression persisted up to 1.5h and decayed to baseline after 24h. However, spine density and spine head volume were increased at 24h and decreased at 48h. Synaptic proteins VGLUT1 and PSD-95 were also upregulated and downregulated at 24h and 48h, respectively, while the calmodulin-binding protein neurogranin was translocated from the soma to the dendrite. Additionally, lasting astrocyte reactivation and microglia proliferation were observed, suggesting a role of neuron-glia interaction. All this corroborates the interpretation of our experimental results in terms of homeostatic structural plasticity. Our results bring important insights of how external stimulation modulates synaptic plasticity and behaviors.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience