Functional elongation of CA1 hippocampal neurons with aging in Fischer 344 rats.
Dendritic function of CA1 pyramidal cells was measured during intracellular recording in vitro and correlated with in vivo behavior in Fischer 344 rats. The aged rats (greater than 26 months) were significantly impaired on a water maze test of hippocampal behavioral function. CA1 neurons from these aged rats demonstrated an elevated action potential threshold compared to the young rats. Electrotonic length (L, in lambda), calculated independently from physiological transients and electrotonic cell reconstructions, was significantly longer in neurons from aged rats (L = 0.73 +/- 0.02 lambda; mean +/- SEM) than in neurons from young rats (L = 0.66 +/- 0.02 lambda). Analysis of proximal and distal synaptic potentials pointed to a more distal electrotonic siting of all dendritic synapses in the aged neurons. Thus, electrical lengthening of dendrites, alterations in synaptic location and decreased excitability in neurons from aged rats with behavioral impairment may represent an endpoint of neuronal reactive mechanisms in response to the aging process.
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